Nothing Trump Does Can Save Coal
Don’t blame liberals and regulations; blame capitalism and technology.
Bloomberg, November 15, 2017
On the campaign trail and in the White House, Donald Trump has warmly embraced coal. He has rolled back regulations on its use and eliminated some federal subsidies for alternative energies like solar and wind, along with electric cars. A few coal miners even landed jobs in the industry as the producers anticipate rising use. “Coal is BACK, baby!,” Breitbart News declared.
Only not really.
Sorry, but coal is not back. If anything, it’s on life support. Contrary to the arguments some have made, it wasn’t killed by regulations and liberals, but by capitalism and technology. Eliminating subsidies for clean alternatives will only force them to become relentlessly more efficient, further damping demand for coal.
“King Coal,” as Upton Sinclair called it in his 1917 novel about the dreadful working conditions in mines, was dominant for so long for many reasons: It is cheap. It is abundant. It is stable, and unlikely to explode or catch fire. Yet, it can easily be converted into heat, light and electricity. For the better part of three centuries, coal was the primary energy source for industry and transportation.
The rise of oil and natural gas brought closer scrutiny of the external costs of coal. It did not withstand this review well. It is incredibly dirty; coal contributes to a variety of pollutions, including particulate matter (soot) and ozone (smog). 1 It also is not especially efficient; you cannot, for instance, readily power a jet airliner with coal…
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