Since he was installed into the Executive office, Donald Trump has been doing his level best to abolish any and all Obama-era environmental regulations – particularly those aimed at curtailing the mining of coal. But despite all his “promises” (and we know what those are worth) to save coal industry jobs, coal is rapidly becoming as extinct as the ancient plants and animals whose fossil remains underwent those geologic pressures over hundreds of millions of years to create the stuff.
There are a number of dynamics in play leading to Old King Coal’s demise. Part of it is the Trump Administration’s own policies on “fracking,” the method used to produce natural gas. Related to this is the fact that the cost of natural gas has been dropping to historic lows – as has the price tag of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. In short, the coal industry is falling victim to the same Almighty Free Market sources that Trump and his cronies claim as their religion.
In a report published by Bloomberg in January, experts say that renewable energy sources are finally becoming competitive with fossil fuels. The report points out that “in many countries, [renewable energy] now undercuts every other source of new generating capacity.” In 2016, the unsubsidized price of a renewably-generated megawatt-hour of electricity was below $30 USD in some regions of the world.
Furthermore, the Trump Administration’s efforts to gut environmental regulations – such as the Stream Protection Rule – and attempts to hamstring the EPA through one of his endless “executive orders,” will take months, if not years to implement. And even if the Trump Administration manages to avoid the slow-motion train wreck now threatening to bring down his entire house of cards, his actions are likely to meet numerous legal challenges from environmental groups, thus tying his agenda up in court for the foreseeable future
A new report from Columbia University states the grim truth for the coal industry: all those coal jobs are not coming back. The report recommends that local, state and federal government agencies collaborate with private companies and other public organizations to “leverage other assets” in former coal mining regions in order to create new industries that will spur economic growth. However, the authors note that such efforts require “a clear-eyed assessment of the outlook for the coal industry and a commitment to put sustainable solutions ahead of politically expedient talking points.”
That is not something that we can expect from Trump and his GOP enablers.
Nonetheless, progress is inevitable. Trump and his anti-environment fossil-fuel cronies may be able to slow that progress to a crawl, at least for the time being – but they cannot stop it.