The first new US coal mine of the Trump administration’s tenure has just opened in Pennsylvania. It’s not set to be a roaring success for many reasons, but one rather striking stat seems to highlight this more than any other: It will only employ 70 people, hardly a number that the President can boast about.
“When I ended the ‘war on coal,’ I said I would put our incredible miners – and that’s what you are, incredible – back to work,” Trump said in a video message that was broadcast during the Acosta Deep Mine’s opening ceremony.
Although Trump has signed away plenty of Obama-era climate measures, it’s not likely that these actions have directly resulted in the mine’s opening. Regardless, even if it is true that there are more coal mines opening up as of late, it will not change the fact that the glory days of mining are long gone.
Coal’s on its way out, and it’s not just because the planet has decided to cut its carbon footprint quite drastically. The smog, and the fact that solar and wind power is so cheap and accessible these days, are also helping push the once-precious black substance into extinction.
The European Union and China are shutting down their coal power plants at an increasingly rapid pace. Market forces are not fans of the stuff anymore. The energy industries are not on coal’s side, and they won’t be coming back anytime soon.
Still, the President is pushing on with his plans to revive America’s flagging coal industry in order to satiate his base. He will undoubtedly boast about bringing back “JOBS JOBS JOBS!” but if he really wants to boost those numbers without just riding on the coattails of the previous administration’s record-breaking employment streak, he should look to clean energy.
Compared to coal, solar and wind is employing five times as many people. In the longer term, not investing in clean energy will make American unable to compete with places like China and the EU.
The biggest irony of all is that it’s not actually solar and wind power that’s mostly pushing coal out – it’s another fossil fuel, natural gas. Although this still contributes to climate change quite significantly, it has the lowest carbon footprint of any fossil fuel out there, so it’s often seen as a bridge to a low-carbon economy.
A sensible plan would be to train coal miners to be employed in natural gas or renewable energy jobs – but “sensible” really isn’t in the President’s vocabulary.