Speed Reads

Hard Power

Trump won't bring back many coal jobs. But he could quash America's fast-growing clean-energy industry.

When President Trump signed a series of executive orders at the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday aimed at dismantling his predecessor's attempt to counter climate change, he touted them as fulfilling a campaign promise to bring back lost coal jobs. Few people think that will happen, including Robert Murray, the CEO of America's largest privately held coal-mining company, Murray Energy, and a big supporter of Trump and his energy policy. "I would not say it's a good time in the coal industry — it's a better time," he told The Guardian.

There were 98,505 U.S. coal-mining jobs in 2015, versus 127,745 in 2008, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, but most of those job losses are due to technology and cheaper and cleaner energy sources like natural gas and renewables, not regulation. When he spoke with Trump about coal and jobs, "I suggested that he temper his expectations — those are my exact words," Murray said. "He can't bring them back." BBC News has some charts:

On the other hand, clean-energy jobs outnumber coal and oil jobs in the U.S. by a 5 to 1 margin, according to a new Sierra Club analysis of Energy Department jobs data, and there are more jobs in solar, wind, energy efficiency, battery storage, and smart energy grid technology than oil, gas, and coal jobs in 41 states. And Trump's attempt to reverse the "war on coal" will not just contribute to climate change but could harm those growth industries and the jobs they create. "These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

Thomas Friedman is more searing, arguing in Wednesday's New York Times that Trump's energy policy suggests he's "a Chinese agent" who's "clearly out to make China great again." China's "new five-year plan is a rush to electric cars, batteries, nuclear, wind, solar, and energy efficiency — and a cap-and-trade system for carbon," he wrote. "Trump's plan? More coal and oil. Hello? How can America be great if we don't dominate the next great global industry — clean power?" California alone, he notes, "has far more advanced energy jobs than there are coal miners in America, and the pay is better and the work is healthier," but by "doubling down on coal," Trump is "squandering our lead in technology." Read the rest at The New York Times.