President Trump has publicly made quite a few comments about bringing coal jobs back, but his verbiage isn’t making much of a dent in the declining coal industry. In fact, a very large number of American coal power plants will be closing in 2018. Making public statements about ending the ‘war on coal’ doesn’t appear to be doing much.
The US Energy Information Administration summarized the true coal power trends very concisely in two statements on its website:
- “At least 25 GW of coal-fired capacity will retire within the next three years (2018–2020), according to planned retirements reported to EIA. In the AEO2018 Reference Case, coal-fired electricity generation capacity is projected to decline by 65 gigawatts (GW) from 2018 through 2030…”
- “Electricity generation from coal is now second to natural gas, which surpassed coal as the leading source of U.S. electricity generation in 2016. In the AEO2018 Reference case, despite relatively few retirements and higher utilization, coal’s share of total U.S. electricity generation declines from 31% in 2017 to 22% in 2050 as natural gas and renewable generation sources increase their generation shares.”
You might say that natural gas delivered a nasty uppercut to coal, and renewables are pummeling its midsection.
The US EIA is part of the federal government, and all the President has to do is read its website articles or call them up and have a little meeting to discuss the energy reality on the ground.
“The real story I believe is in coal retirements. [T]he fundamentals of the economics of coal have gotten worse, with costs going up, while the competition for coal — that is, gas, wind and solar — has all gotten cheaper,” said Bruce Hamilton, a director at Navigant.
“Coal jobs aren’t coming back, due to market forces, not due to regulation. Natural gas is cheaper and more plentiful,” explained James Van Nostrand, director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at West Virginia University College of Law.
To make matters worse, the President seems to be very uninformed about the coal industry or is potentially lying, “Trump claims West Virginia is exporting “clean coal” to China. But this is wrong for two reasons. One, in 2015 and 2016, West Virginia exported virtually no coal to China. Two, there is no such thing as “clean coal.”
It doesn’t seem fair to coal industry workers to raise expectations about increasing coal power jobs if market economics are what is causing coal to no longer be competitive. Artificially boosting a declining industry also seems to be exactly what some Republicans openly rail against, so Trump’s coal support seems more like pandering to a segment of voters more than anything else.
Image Credit: TVA/Public domain