Coal is here for a good long while. The Unites States generates roughly 30 percent of its power from coal, and that won’t disappear overnight. But its role will diminish regardless of any policy rollbacks that the Trump administration puts forth. Market forces are at work.
Consider Duke Energy, one of the nation’s largest utilities. A decade ago, Duke Energy had more than 60 percent of its power generation in coal; today that number is closer to 30 percent. That is an enormous shift, considering that companies like this are huge, and thus have a significant impact on our nation’s energy mix. Moreover, Duke and others are planning to continue this shift away from coal and toward gas and renewables.
The polarity of this discussion is starkly unnerving. The president has set this up as a “coal or nothing” issue, when that does not need to be the situation at all.
Rust belt towns throughout the Northeast are figuring out ways to reshape themselves as the traditional factory positions keep leaving. For example, SolarCity just built a new factory in Buffalo, and Albany is focusing on nanotech and other 21st-century technologies.
The moves by Trump to roll back climate policy to promote the coal industry represent backsliding in terms of environmental stewardship and economic reality. The net effect globally of all these rollbacks will be to position China as the leader in terms of both climate-change mitigation and renewable energy development, as they have remained committed to the Paris Agreement and have decided to invest $360 billion in renewable energy over the next few years.
Coal miners need jobs — that is not disputed. But why not invest in industries that have bright futures, where market forces are pointing?
If Trump really cares for coal miners then he should focus on investments in job training to position those workers for growth industries, like solar, wind, and natural gas. That would be forward looking. That would encourage business to relocate to those areas. That is what will promote a vibrant Appalachia.
If Trump really loved coal miners, he’d prepare them for other jobs (Commentary)