COLUMN-Trump tries to save coal, but probably in vain – by John Kemp (Reuters U.S. – October 11, 2017)

LONDON, Oct 11 (Reuters) – For political reasons, the Trump administration has become obsessed by saving old and inefficient coal-fired power plants rather than preparing the electricity industry to face the challenges of the future.

Senior officials appear to have an almost romantic attachment to the hard physical labour of the coal mines and saving existing coal-fired power plants, most of which are now more than 40 years old and wearing out.

At the Department of Energy, Secretary Rick Perry has proposed a grid resiliency rule which would increase payments to coal-fired power producers that can promise secure on-site fuel supplies. And Environmental Protection Administration chief Scott Pruitt has announced his intention to repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to try to keep coal-fired power plants running longer.

The Trump administration blames its predecessor for waging a war on coal and pushing hundreds of coal-fired power plants into premature retirement.Trump officials have pledged to reverse the anti-coal drive, drawing predictable outrage from Democrats, climate campaigners and renewables advocates, as well as allies of convenience in the natural gas and power industries.

But protecting the coal industry has assumed enormous symbolism out of all proportion to its economic importance.

Fewer than 100,000 people are now employed in coal mining, down from 250,000 in 1979 and around 1 million in 1920 (“Historical Statistics of the United States”, Census Bureau, 1975).

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