“My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” said Donald Trump, surrounded by the usual gaggle of officials and (in this case) coal miners, as he put his supersized signature on the “energy independence” executive order. But coal is dying as a major energy source in the United States for reasons far beyond the reach of executive orders.
“The miners are coming back,” Trump boasted at a rally in Kentucky last week, but no less an authority than Robert Murray, founder and CEO of Murray Energy, the biggest U.S. coal company, promptly rained on his parade. “I suggested that (Trump) temper his expectations,” he said. “He can’t bring them back.”
Trump’s latest executive order is not just about coal, of course. It’s a frontal assault on all the Obama-era regulations aimed at curbing climate change. But while it will slow the decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, it will not have a major impact on global emissions.
That is partly because U.S. accounts for only 16 per cent of global emissions. And, American greenhouse gas emissions will continue to decline under Trump, though not as fast as they would under a less ignorant and less compromised administration. Coal provides an excellent example of why.
In 2009, when Barack Obama entered the White House, coal provided 52 per cent of U.S. electricity. In only eight years, it has fallen to 33 per cent, and the decline has little to do with Obama’s Clean Power Plan. First, cheap gas from fracking undercut the coal price, and then even solar power got cheaper than coal. So 411 coal-fired plants closed down and more than 50 coal-mining companies went bankrupt.
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