Trump’s coal bunker mentality

Joshua Rhodes on why the White House wants to subsidize a fuel that others are phasing out

The World Today Published 3 August 2018 Updated 10 November 2020 3 minute READ

Joshua Rhodes

Research Associate at the Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin

The Trump administration is now dashing pell-mell into its second attempt to intervene in United States electricity markets by forcing grid operators to buy electricity from economically struggling coal and nuclear power plants.

Even if these market intrusions were enacted and some power plants stayed online longer, it would only delay the inevitable. The market has spoken in its preference for other electricity sources, namely natural gas and renewables.

On coal, Trump’s rhetoric has focused mainly on bringing back coal jobs, but coal jobs have been in decline for almost 100 years. Two main forces are working against US coal jobs: technology advances that allow fewer miners to extract more coal; and cheaper alternatives for generating electricity have taken market share.

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