Climate change: Can Trump revive coal?
“Climate change doesn’t matter.” That’s the “devastating” message President Trump sent out with his executive order on “energy independence” last week, said David Roberts in Vox.com. Trump ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to review and rewrite the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era edict to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants. He also asked the EPA to relax carbon rules for new power plants; loosen limits on methane emissions in oil and gas production; and rescind a moratorium on new coal mining on federal land. “You’re going back to work,” the president told the coal miners he had invited to the executive order’s signing ceremony. Trump didn’t “formally withdraw” from the Paris climate accords, the landmark 194-nation agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Amy Davidson in The New Yorker. But by killing the Clean Power Plan, which is currently stuck in the courts, Trump has made it impossible for the U.S. to fulfill its emissions targets—and ended our “participation in the fight against climate change.”
“Everybody needs to calm down,” said Kurt Eichenwald in Newsweek.com. Trump can’t revive the coal industry by signing orders. For market reasons, energy companies have long been shifting away from dirty, inefficient coal and toward natural gas and renewable resources. The number of coal-fired power plants dropped from 619 in 2005 to 427 in 2015, and just 65,000 coal miners remain. Even coal executives admit their industry is in permanent decline. But if the market forces pushing us toward clean energy are so “potent,” said Holman Jenkins in The Wall Street Journal, then surely we don’t need all the costly Obama-era regulations in the first place.
The market is changing, but not fast enough, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. It’s still cheaper to run an old coal-fired plant than to invest in building a new, cleaner one. To protect our planet from the “dire effects of climate change,” we have to “accelerate the pace of decarbonization.” There are also “sound business reasons” for Trump to rethink his energy agenda, said the Financial Times in an editorial. Propping up a declining coal industry will inevitably reduce U.S. investment in renewable energy—“opening the way for China and others to dominate” the industries of the future. Rather than trying to return the U.S. to its coal-fired past, Trump should be “aiming for the U.S. that could exist 20 years hence—a global leader in clean technology.”