EMILY CARMAN WRITES – On January 9, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis IEEFA published a report naming China the global leader in building and financing of clean energy technology. Meanwhile, the U.S. persists in clinging to coal.
On his campaign trail, President Donald Trump promised to make the coal industry “great again.” But media outlets throughout the world, such as the Washington Post, The New York Times, China Daily, and The Los Angeles Times, begged to differ.
One year into Trump’s Presidency, according to Vox, “domestic coal demand continues to decline and U.S. coal employment is barely holding steady, at its lowest levels in a century.” Still, Trump has often taken to Twitter to brag about the alleged “successes” of the coal industry under his administration. Trump tweeted in October that U.S. coal production was up 7.8 percent and then retweeted himself in November adding: “It’s finally happening for our great clean coal miners!”
It is finally happening for our great clean coal miners! https://t.co/suAnjs6Ccz
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 2, 2017
The Fox News statistics Trump used ended up being inaccurate. U.S. coal has seen only a small percentage of increase in employment, and the industry has seen a two percent decrease in U.S. coal consumption, and is now largely dependent on volatile export markets. The statistics Trump referenced in his tweet were describing a 7.8 percent increase in coal consumption that occured between the summer months and winter months—when it gets colder.
Michael Genovese, a political leadership professor at Loyola Marymount University, has elaborated on Trump’s infatuation with coal, “When Trump ran for office he made coal jobs a central issue to win votes in one state, West Virginia,” Genovese says, “And he’s been forced to follow through because to back off would be a sign of abandoning his base.”
No matter how many promises he makes, reviving the coal industry in the long term is an impossible task. According to the Global Times, “the widespread disappearance of coal jobs in the last several decades has been caused, first and foremost, by large-scale mechanized production driven by technology change and promoted by coal companies to increase profits.” On top of that, “competition from the natural gas industry has played a pivotal role.”
Trump has largely blamed environmental regulations for the decline in coal jobs and has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords, in an evident gesture “to save” the industry and its jobs. America is currently not included in the accords, but “China’s at the table, so they have a big say. They’re the ones leading the world,” Genovese says. “We’ve willing handed them the keys to the kingdom.”
“Trump has vowed to put America first,” writes Li Min of China Daily, “but his reckless move [of pulling out of the climate accords] actually will put America last.”
In the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more people were employed in the solar power sector last year than in the sectors generating power from coal, gas, and oil energy combined. The bureau also claims that the fastest-growing job in the U.S. is a wind energy technician. A $19 trillion surge in additional economic growth over the next 30 years would have been the result of meeting the goals of the climate pact, according to Bloomberg.
“If Trump is really concerned about the economy and employment in traditional coal-producing areas such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, he would support economic and energy transformation,” Min writes.
“There was a time when coal was great. Back in the 60’s, coal helped us to become the power we are today,” Genovese says, “but he’s banking on industries of the past while other countries are looking to the future. He’s betting on a loser.”
China has led the world in renewable energy production for the past five years, and will continue to embrace the direction energy markets are moving and, by doing so, position themselves as a global technology leader. While China, and the rest of the world, continue to profit off of renewable energy investments and make great strides towards bettering the environment, President Trump and America are falling behind.