McClatchy DC Bureau:
President Donald Trump campaigned on putting coal miners back to work, and on Tuesday, he gave the impression he was delivering. But he wasn’t.
Trump rolled back Obama administration regulations considered detrimental to the industry. But the president’s actions will bring minimal benefit to the coal-producing regions that helped him win the White House, according to the government’s own projections.
At best, according to government data, coal production will increase by about 5 million tons a year by 2040 out of 800 million tons overall under Trump’s order.
Even without the Obama-era regulations in place, the trend away from coal is likely to continue. Tom Sanzillo, director of finance for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a group that supports a transition away from coal, said neither utility companies nor public service commissions were clamoring to build new coal plants.
“We don’t see any utility adding new coal to their rate base,” Sanzillo said.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts only a slight increase overall in coal production across the country through 2040 without the Clean Power Plan.
The agency projects that Appalachian and western coal would decline, and all of the increase would come from the Illinois basin, which includes parts of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Those producers use mechanized mining practices that have reduced the industry’s employment from 250,000 to 75,000 in 40 years.
“Over time, the industry has been able to mine more coal with less workers,” Sanzillo said.