Coal is on a downward swing despite President Donald Trump’s best efforts to frame himself as a champion of the industry. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more coal power plants closed during Trump’s first two years in the White House than in Obama’s entire first term.
To be fair, former President Barack Obama’s second term is looking to be the most lethal to coal plants. The EIA reports more than 30 closed between 2013 and 2016, while just over 20 are projected to close before Trump’s first term is up. The most plants closed in 2015 when higher emissions standards enacted under the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule went into effect.
Trump has tried to eliminate such hurdles for the coal industry by proposing lighter emissions limits and different pollution standards, but more plants continue to close. The EIA reported in December that only one small coal plant is expected to open in 2019.
Regardless of who’s in the White House, the price of coal is failing to remain competitive against that of natural gas, and the fuel that fired the Industrial Revolution is now getting pushed out by more environmentally-friendly renewable energies.
An October report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that unprecedented changes will need to be made for society to avoid dangerous levels of global temperature increases.
That includes eliminating coal—in 2017, burning coal was responsible for 26 percent of U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. According to the EIA, burning natural gas can produce the same amount of energy with half the carbon dioxide emissions.
Coal is dying, and that’s bad news for the more than 75,000 employees of the industry. Trump capitalized on the hopes of these miners on the campaign trail, but with little results.
“What you need to say to coal miners is ‘We’re going to figure out a way to give you better, safer, healthier jobs,'” former miner and industry consultant Art Sullivan told CNN. “These guys and the few gals are simply too good. They are too capable to simply say that we don’t need you.”