Trump's Coal Jobs
Trump going after those West Virginia votes.
(2017 Feb blog post)
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Around 2013, before fracking for natural gas really took off (with natural gas replacing coal in more and more electricity generating plants), I saw a TV interview with an out-of-work coal miner from West Virginia.
This ex-coal-miner was pointing out that he had lost his job because of the increasing use of 'mountain top removal' (also known, more generally, as 'strip mining' or 'surface mining'). There is less need for manpower with 'strip mining'.
With 'strip mining', the mining companies mainly need truck drivers and big-machinery drivers, rather than traditional miners --- a lot fewer people than they need for underground-tunnel mining.
This man said he did not expect to see coal jobs coming back --- and this was before fracking brought a lot of natural gas onto the market (causing prices to plummet) --- and before utility companies really 'ramped up' the conversion of coal-fired electricity generating plants to natural-gas-fired.
When fracking 'ramped up', the fracking-for-natural-gas industry applied a second-whammy to coal jobs.
You can see from the graph above that around 1990, the use of coal for electricity generation started declining while the use of natural gas was increasing --- and around 2016, the use of natural gas was on track to exceed the use of coal.
Some corroboration of the coal jobs story
There are at least two reasons why coal jobs are not coming back --- to West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania --- in any great numbers:
--- and this corroborated by others.
A Times-Tribune article (Sep 18, 2016) titled "Trump's War on Logic", points out that
"... coal's biggest challenge has been an economic one -- namely, the abundance of inexpensive and clean-burning natural gas belching forth from wells located in places like Pennsylvania's marcellus shale region. Factor in the staggering financial and environmental costs of extracting what remains of [NorthEast Pennsylvania's] anthracite coal deposits (much of which lies in mines that were flooded decades ago), and Trump/Pence's vision of our region's economic future amounts to little more than political pie-in-the-sky with no basis in reality."
A thinkprogress.org article (May 4, 2016) makes many similar points, including:
There is zero chance Donald Trump or anyone else can reverse the multi-decade decline in coal jobs for two reasons. First, it has been the coal industry itself that has wiped out most of those jobs. As Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explained in 2014, "The real war on coal, or at least on coal workers, took place a generation ago, waged not by liberal environmentalists but by the coal industry itself. And coal workers lost." As he explains, "strip mines and machinery in general have allowed us to produce more coal with very few miners."
And if you think that those two factors (strip-mining and fracking) can be overcome, take note of the fact that a lot of new electricity generating capacity coming on-line around 2016 is from renewables ( wind and solar ).
This Wikipedia article on the U.S. Electricity Sector points out:
Over the decade 2004-2014, the largest increases in electrical generation came from natural gas (2014 generation was 412 billion kWh greater than 2004), wind (increase of 168 billion kWh) and solar (increased 18 billion kWh). Over the same decade, annual generation from coal decreased 393 billion kWh, and from petroleum decreased 90 billion kWh.
So there is a third coal-jobs 'whammy' coming --- renewables.
To gather further information on some of these topics, you can try web searches like the following.
Trump's attempts to create coal jobs by deregulation
Around 16 February 2017, Trump had a 'dog-and-pony show' as he signed legislation with coal industry people looking on.
President Trump on Thursday signed legislation ending a key Obama administration coal mining rule. The bill quashes the Office of Surface Mining's Stream Protection Rule, a regulation to protect waterways from coal mining waste that officials finalized in December.
Although Trump hates the media, he sure likes it when they cover one of his propaganda sessions. In this case, he was posturing that this deregulation will bring back coal mining jobs --- as if allowing mountaintop removal 'waste' to be pushed into streams can create jobs! (Yeah, it will create jobs --- stream remediation jobs --- paid for by taxpayers in the future.)
It will be interesting to see if allowing coal mining companies to choke streams with 'mountain tops' is going to bring back jobs to coal miners. Anyone want to bet any money on that? If so, I'll cover that bet. Easy money.
I am willing to bet hundreds of dollars that no significant numbers of coal mining jobs will come back during Trump's presidency.
In fact, it is likely that coal mining jobs will decline on the order 10 to 20% during Trump's presidency --- according to graphs of declining coal use for electricity generation.
Maybe the coal companies can convince the Chinese that eating coal will increase their sexual potency --- even better than rhino horn and the like.
No amount of allowing coal companies to trash the environment is going to bring those jobs back. That is not going to counteract the relatively huge effects of 'strip mining' and 'fracking for natural gas' on coal mining jobs.
West Virginians need to clean up those streams (stop bulldozing mountain tops into them) and generate jobs in different ways --- such as through tourism. Sell West Virginia as Little Switzerland.
West Virginians, you had better get creative. Those coal mining jobs are not likely to come back --- no matter how many EPA regulations Trump repeals by executive order or by legislation.
You have a better chance of creating jobs in the renewable energy industry --- wind and solar jobs.
China is budgeting big time for such jobs. It appears that Trump, on the other hand, will take us into the past by sticking with 'what we know how to do' --- oil-and-gas --- as if they will be here forever. Not true.
I guess that's what Trump means by 'Make America Great Again' --- try to go back to the 1950's again.
How about looking to the future, Donald --- "Make America Greater'n Ever".
That's it! Trump can ask Putin what to do about the coal jobs.
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Page was posted 2017 Feb 27.