In the past couple of months, the cacophony of headlines surrounding the Trump administration has included a number of reports that would make any environmentalist faint.
In February, President Trump signed a bill that would allow coal companies to once again dump waste into waterways, The Hill said. Later, in late March, the President lifted a moratorium on mining coal on public lands, reversed the Obama Clean Power plan, and rescinded suggested regulations aimed at reining in climate change. Both of these actions are aimed at assisting the fossil fuel and coal industry. The President has promised a return of jobs to coal country, resulting in significant support amongst current and former coal miners who believe he will return the industry to its former glory, according to NPR. Supporters of these measures argue that the removal of former regulations could lead renewed demand and jobs in the coal industry, CNBC said.
Yet one entity stands in the way of these plans: the free market. Internationally, the demand for coal has fallen just as other sources of coal have started to compete with American sources. Meanwhile, demand for domestic utilities remains low due to the increased supply of natural gas, and a number of coal plants have closed since the President has taken office, with dozens more projected to follow, according to The Washington Post. In addition, technology has allowed the industry to replace humans with robots, ensuring that few coal jobs will appear no matter the President’s efforts, said The New York Times.
More importantly, renewable energy sources continue to decrease in price. Globally, solar energy costs less than coal in many areas; Bloomberg News predicts that solar energy will become the cheapest source of power within a decade. Many U.S. states, regardless of the Trump administration’s plans, have prepared to move away from coal and towards cleaner energy sources. According to The Guardian, many leaders in the coal industry, while hopeful that President Trump will “level the playing field” for fossil fuel producers, do not believe that the number of coal jobs will increase.
The market, not regulations or government mandate, has ensured that the President cannot keep his promise. Ultimately, factors outside of his control may prevent the President from following through on his pledge to bring back coal jobs.