Trump Promised To Revitalize Coal. Instead, It’s Near-Death.

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Under Trump, coal has seen a 34% decline in production—"the largest four-year drop in production since at least 1932."

President Donald Trump repeatedly promised during the 2016 campaign that he would save the dying coal industry.

Soon after office, he promised, “We’re going to put our miners back to work,” The New York Times recalled.

But Trump was unable to fulfill that promise.

Despite Mr. Trump’s stocking his administration with coal-industry executives and lobbyists, taking big donations from the industry, rolling back environmental regulations and intervening directly in cases like the Arizona power plant and mine, coal’s decline has only accelerated in recent years.

  • Trump was defeated in part by powerful market forces, low natural gas prices and the growing economic viability of renewable energy sources, The Times wrote. The pandemic only worsened the situation, as energy consumption in the U.S. fell.
  • Historian Peter Shulman told the newspaper that Trump’s early focus on coal was likely as much about politics as it was his concern for the industry’s fate.

“Trump’s pledges to coal miners were rhetorical appeals to hard-working, blue-collar Americans like when Nixon put on a hard hat after a meeting with labor union leaders back in 1970,” Mr. Shulman said. “But there was no policy Trump could have implemented that would have changed this situation with coal.”

  • The Times reported that since Trump’s inauguration, “145 coal-burning units at 75 power plants have been idled, eliminating 15 percent of the nation’s coal-generated capacity, enough to power about 30 million homes.”
  • Further, coal is expected to generate an estimated 20 percent of the nation’s power this year, compared to 31 percent in 2017.

Since Mr. Trump was inaugurated, 145 coal-burning units at 75 power plants have been idled, eliminating 15 percent of the nation’s coal-generated capacity, enough to power about 30 million homes.

That is the fastest decline in coal-fuel capacity in any single presidential term, far greater than the rate during either of President Barack Obama’s terms. An additional 73 power plants have announced their intention to close additional coal-burning units this decade, according to a tally by the Sierra Club.”


In part because of the coronavirus-induced recession, total coal production is expected to drop this year to 511 million tons, down from 775 million tons in 2017. That 34 percent decline is the largest four-year drop in production since at least 1932.

  • The Times also reported that “the amount of sulfur dioxide coming from power plants, which can cause health complications including breathing difficulties and heart disease, dropped by nearly 30 percent nationwide in the first three years of Mr. Trump’s tenure.”
  • This represents “a faster rate of decline than the first three years of Mr. Obama’s presidency.” In addition, The Times wrote, “Nitrogen oxide, another hazardous pollutant, also dropped much faster than in Mr. Obama’s first three years.”
  • Trump’s love affair with coal seems to have dwindled at least as much as the industry itself since he took office as the report noted that it rarely comes up in the president’s re-election campaigning.

After all of the efforts the administration made in Mr. Trump’s first three years in office, the White House has offered no big new plans this year to keep the industry afloat, casting doubt on how much political capital he is willing to invest to protect coal jobs. The president rarely mentions it on the campaign trail.

Read the full report.


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