Donald Trump’s promise to bring back “King Coal” — thereby saving coal companies from bankruptcy and increasing coal-related jobs — is patently false.
The coal industry is battered due to competitive power generation using natural gas, wind and solar. More than 200 coal-fired power plants in the U.S. have closed since 2010, and overseas demand for coal has nearly disappeared. The industry’s gross earnings fell 22 percent in 2015 and another 10 percent in 2016.
Coal giant Alpha Natural Resources has filed for bankruptcy and Peabody Energy may be the next to go. Even in West Virginia, coal-related jobs amount to less than 3 percent of the total. It is less than 1 percent in Pennsylvania.
The term “clean coal” is an oxymoron. An accurate name would be “less dirty coal,” when the carbon from burning it is captured and sequestered deeply underground. But not a single coal-burning plant is fully using this technology today. Most are simply not using it, despite Congress voting $6 billion to promote it.
Some say that plentiful natural gas is one major cause of coal’s decline (true) and a relatively clean “bridge” between coal and wind/solar (false). Although burning it is cleaner than burning coal, natural gas is just as dirty when emission of its methane from wells and pipes is factored in.
Fortunately for our environment, use of renewable energy (wind and solar) is increasing. Let’s speed it up! And let’s help the laid-off miners adjust!
Dale Adams, DuBois