Despite President Donald Trump's love of coal and his administrations efforts to keep the industry afloat, largely through deregulation, coal jobs are not flowing back into America's coal-mining states as hoped.
In Wyoming, a state whose revenue depends heavily on its coal mines, just five jobs were added last year.
Coal mining jobs in Wyoming fell from 7,054 in 2008 to 5,756 in 2016. If neither of these numbers seems massive—it’s because they’re not. But for a state with no income tax, whose revenues are almost entirely dependent on the excise taxes charged on extraction industries, that 19 percent decline represented a matching hit to state coffers. After years in which the state filled “rainy day funds” to overflowing, Wyoming’s legislature found itself facing a $770 million shortfall in 2017. Wyoming legislators reluctantly tapped some of those savings to address the drops in revenue.
Those meager five jobs clearly aren't enough to keep Wyoming's coffers filled, and Gov. Matt Mead is struggling again this year to make ends meet -- he will likely have to eliminate 50 state jobs over the next two years on top of other measures.
With all that the Trump administration has done for the coal industry, why has it not seen greater improvement? Is it perhaps too early to tell what the effects will be?
The growing consensus is that coal simply can't make a comeback, no matter the regulatory situation.
A study commissioned by Energy Secretary Rick Perry reached the same conclusion:
Increased competition from cheap natural gas is responsible for 49 percent of the decline in domestic US coal consumption. Lower-than-expected demand is responsible for 26 percent, and the growth in renewable energy is responsible for 18 percent. …
Implementing all the actions in President Trump’s executive order to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations could stem the recent decline in US coal consumption, but only if natural gas prices increase going forward. If natural gas prices remain at or near current levels or renewable costs fall more quickly than expected, US coal consumption will continue its decline despite Trump’s aggressive rollback of Obama-era regulations.