During his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump made no bones about his support for the domestic coal industry. For Trump, the quest to save coal is a quest to save jobs in the Northeast. Since taking office, Trump hasn’t turned his back on the coal industry. Unfortunately, most experts think that the President’s legislative efforts to help a once vibrant American industry may be quixotic at best.
An Environmental Regulation Rollback
On Tuesday, March 28, Donald Trump issued an executive order with the goal of eliminating several Obama-era environmental regulations. Specifically, Trump’s executive order revokes a rule designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The legislation also overrules several Obama policies that sought to mitigate the effects of climate change.
For Trump, however, putting United States citizens to work should be the nation’s top priority. As he explained before he signed the order, “My action today is the latest in a series of steps to create American jobs and to grow American wealth. We’re ending the theft of American prosperity and rebuilding our beloved country.”
Though that goal is absolutely admirable, the sweeping changes may have come too late to save the flagging coal industry.
Coal Is Simply Past Its Prime in the United States
In 2017, something remarkable happened. For the first time, coal was dethroned as the top fuel used for power. Who took the top spot? Natural gas, of course. Currently, the United States is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, and the industry has plans in place to expand even further in the coming years.
The decision to ramp up natural gas use in the United States wasn’t the choice of oil and gas companies, either. It was a decision made largely by several utilities companies who set in motion plans to replace their coal infrastructure with cleaner burning natural gas. Extraction companies are simply meeting the need of energy producers in the United States and the rest of the world.
Ten years ago, coal might have been saved, but the Obama administration regulations got just enough time as the law of the land that utilities companies and coal extraction companies were forced to set in motion an irrevocable transition to natural gas.
To try and undo the millions in set up costs in order to go back to dilapidated coal mines which would likely cost millions more to repair and restaff just doesn’t make sense for many American companies.
The United States Is Oil and Gas Country
Let’s not even mention the fact that all but a few holdouts have acknowledged that hydraulic fracturing is much less harmful to the environment than coal, even though it totally is.
In terms of sheer dollars and cents, natural gas is the preferred method of extraction for most energy companies for obvious reasons. It’s cheaper, it’s safer, and it’s much easier on the planet Earth. Not only that, but a transition to natural gas extraction stands to make the United States billions in annual income as we work to meet the growing international demand.
The fact is, coal had its time in America, but the new millennium requires a technological step forward, and for the time being that’s oil and natural gas.