This week, President Donald Trump continued to try and act on his many campaign promises with an executive order scaling back several of former-President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations. To give credit where it’s due, this is a rare case of the president fulfilling a campaign promise. So, I would like to start by acknowledging that. But as seems to be the trend, the long term ramifications of fulfilling this promise are unquestionably detrimental to our country.
On several campaigns stops, the president stood surrounded by former and current coal miners, many of who were concerned about the future of their jobs since sectors of the coal industry have suffered in recent years. Trump blamed environmental regulation and Obama for this decline, saying the regulations “are a complete disaster” and “we have to protect your coal industry which is being decimated … by EPA regulations.”
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This sounds fantastic to a group of understandably frustrated workers, but it isn’t exactly true. It isn’t regulations alone that hurt the coal industry, but they are definitely a key factor. So, will Trump’s actions save coal?
The answer, unsurprisingly at this point, is no.
The main issue the coal industry has is competition from natural gas. This fuel is far, far cleaner than coal and has caught up to coal in terms of the amount of energy it provides for the U.S.
Trump’s regulation removal will, at best, slow down the coal industry’s decline but not stop it. Coal was in decline long before the Obama administration. Between natural gas, automation and environmental regulations that came long before Obama, it is extremely unlikely the coal industry will ever be America’s main source of energy again.
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There is no question the promise to coal miners to save their industry worked in Trump’s favor. He overwhelmingly won in counties where coal mining is the primary source of income, and this certainly helped him win a few crucial states.
Trump’s promise to save the coal industry, however, is impractical and nearly impossible. But that might not even be the president’s fault. I would say his promises are around a 4/10 in truthfulness, because though his order may help the coal industry temporarily, it is unlikely to save it as he promised.
I am going to pretend there is a chance Trump may read this, and I will lend a bit of my opinion to Trump. Helping the environment will help those coal miners an awful lot more in the long run than temporarily slowing the industries’ descent. As detailed by NASA, the effects of climate change will be far more damaging than competition and automation taking down a specific industry. It isn’t too late to help, but it is getting awfully close.
Harry Lees ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science.