Bring Back Coal Jobs

Current Status: Broken

As of

"We're going to save that coal industry, believe me. I love those people," - Trump speech, May 2016

"The EPA is so restrictive that they are putting our energy companies out of business. And all you have to do is go to a great place like West Virginia or places like Ohio which is phenomenal or places like Pennsylvania and you see what they are doing to the people, miners and others in the energy business."

- Donald Trump, Second Presidential Debate, October 2016

Coal has seen a major decline in the past eight years and Trump attributes much of this decline to excessive regulation. Trump’s vow to “end the war on coal” will start by killing the Clean Power Plan. But his administration has also vowed to scale back an EPA rule to limit ground-level ozone pollution, as well as an Interior Department rule to protect streams from coal-mining waste. In January 2016, the Obama administration implemented an immediate moratorium on new coal leases, as the program was examined to make sure it was fair to taxpayers and ecologically sensitive. Trump would end that moratorium.

The closure of coal-fired power plants and the decline in domestically consumed coal has more to do with low natural gas prices than it does with the Environmental Protection Agency, so although coal won't completely disappear it is unclear how Trump will bring back jobs that have little economic incentive to exist.  Additionally, Trump is unlikely to be able to lift all of the applicable regulations, if past experience proves correct.

Additionally, a contradictory signal comes in the form of several of Trump's cabinet picks who come from oil & gas backgrounds and are unlikely to favor coal in any significant way.

The most direct action taken by the Trump administration came in June 2018 when the administration sought to use two obscure national defense related acts - Section 202 of the Federal Power Act and the Defense Production Act - to force grid providers to prioritize purchases from a designated list of coal and nuclear power providers in an attempt to bolster the revenues of such power generation facilities. The order comprises the most direct government interference in energy markets in a generation, increasing coal and nuclear energy plant operators' revenue at the expense of increased consumer price of electricity. Ostensibly, the plan was meant to buy time to study the vulnerabilities in the US energy system, particularly with particular consideration of the effect of variable and distributed generation such as wind and solar. 

 By 2019, however, more than eight major coal producing companies closed or filed for bankruptcy, citing a variety of factors from trade policies, gains in renewable energy, cheap gas, and even Trump's policies.

Although Trump's election stemmed the precipitous decline in coal jobs, no significant gains have been seen in coal employment above the levels of Summer 2016. Meanwhile, in 2018 there were 3.26 million "green energy" jobs compared to 1.17 million for all fossil fuel-related jobs.

coal mining jobs

See also: Economy, Energy