The curious contradictions of Trump’s coal fixation – by Liam Denning (Globe and Mail/Bloomberg – August 23, 2018)

There is a curiously retro aspect to the energy policies of the Trump administration, with its embrace of resource nationalism and love of extraction over efficiency. Coal, so redolent of the age of Bismarck, is its touchstone.

And while the latest attempt to make coal competitive again, the Affordable Clean Energy proposal, is quite obviously not going to do much to revive coal-fired power in the U.S., it does highlight the contradictions in the White House’s broader approach to energy.

“ACE” would, among other things, shift away from pushing power producers to ditch coal in favor of cleaner fuels and technologies toward encouraging more modest upgrades to existing plants. It would also give states much more discretion in setting regulations for carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants.

That sits rather oddly with the administration’s determination to strip California and other states of their powers to set vehicle-emission targets. But anyway.

Thermal coal’s decline in the U.S. is structural. Tighter regulations are a burden, yes, but bigger problems are the availability of cheap natural gas, the falling cost of renewable energy and flat demand for power (see this, this and this). While relaxed restrictions could keep some coal-fired plants with marginal economics running, this would also tend to depress power prices overall and still won’t persuade anyone to fund a new plant designed to run for decades.

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