One of the popular topics during the recent presidential campaign season was whether or not the mining and coal industry would experience a massive turnaround thanks to changes implemented by a Trump administration.
Now, eight months into the new administration, what’s the progress on the promises? Has the mining industry experienced any noticeable improvements so far?
Since 2006, the amount of coal used in natural energy for fuels and electricity is down by 53%, while natural gas is up by 33%. As time goes on, continuous coal plant retirements mean power plants are moving away from using coal and over to cheaper alternatives like natural gas.
During the election season, President Trump made numerous statements regarding his commitment to the coal and mining industries, including:
“I made them this promise; we will put our miners back to work.”
“We will unlock jobs producing natural gas, oil, and shale energy. We will produce American coal to power American industry.”
According to the Labor Department, since 2001, coal mining jobs are down 32%. Additionally, two of the largest coal companies filed for bankruptcy in recent years. This gradual decline has many American mining workers rallying around the new Commander in Chief in hopes of a coal revival.
With just shy of 8 months into the term, several actions have taken place in an effort to shift work back to coal, including:
- Coal Lease Moratorium Lifted: Shortly after taking office, President Trump lifted a moratorium that paves the way for excavation of fossil fuels on public land in the Western half of the country. This move is in an attempt to encourage mining production in areas where mining companies have shown interest in new facilities.
- Removing Temporary Coal Ban: With an executive order, Trump rolled back a temporary ban placed on mining coal and steam on federal land created by the Obama administration. Mining advocates were highly critical of the ban as they believe it further hindered the growth of an already failing industry.
- Removal from the Paris climate agreement: President Trump believes the Paris climate agreement is detrimental to coal production in the United States, stating that while other countries receive tremendous favor to grow in production, America remains highly mandated.
The Future Outlook
Although the administration is committed to restoring hope for the mining community, many critics believe the efforts may prove disappointing for those hoping to see a coal revolution of sorts.
The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) reports that, “Promises to create more coal jobs will not be kept — indeed the industry will continue to cut payrolls.” They went on to report that the industry has a fundamental problem it refuses to address, “Too many companies are still mining too much coal for too few customers.”
However, despite the growing criticism against the efforts, there is something coal activists are optimistic about, the demand for metallurgical coal for steelmakers. The demand is the cause for the reopening of some previously closed down Appalachian mines. Additionally, four new mines are slated to open within the year. These efforts are restoring some hope, which despite the critics, will restore the mining industry after all.