Making sense of trends and data


Coal remains trumped despite Trump

Published 4.10.2017
Trump’s interest in energy in fossil fuel based energy is well established. The oil and gas industry has been celebrating since his election. Trump also touts coal in an attempt to keep his promise to coal miners, but utilities only care about green— not green as in energy, but green as in currency. Natural gas is cheaper and burns cleaner than coal.

Reuters surveyed 32 utilities with operations in the 26 states that sued former President Barack Obama's administration to block its Clean Power Plan, the main target of Trump's executive order. The bulk of them have no plans to alter their multi-billion dollar, years-long shift away from coal, suggesting demand for the fuel will keep falling despite Trump's efforts.The utilities gave many reasons, mainly economic: Natural gas - coal’s top competitor - is cheap and abundant; solar and wind power costs are falling; state environmental laws remain in place; and Trump's regulatory rollback may not survive legal challenges.

Utilities are not looking to build new coal burning plants. And if new ones don’t get built, eventually there will be none. Coal country might not have liked hearing the truth, but both Obama and Clinton told them this was the future. Trump’s touts might have hit their ears easier, but it ignores the reality of the energy market.

Industry leaders, if not Trump, accept the science behind climate change, another fact that hampers coal. Absent a domestic market, the coal industry has to hope for a strongly growing export market. A hope that runs smack into Trump’s anti-free trade bluster. US coal has begun arriving in China, but that is the result of banned shipments from North Korea (temporary) and cyclone caused delays for Australian producers (also temporary).

Trump’s cuts to renewable energy might hurt the solar industry. Call the neighbors and wake the kids, but this still will not help coal.

The article states the most obvious effect that government funding cuts may have. However, if the technology has reached the point where it genuinely offers users a way to lower energy prices this won’t be the case. Another alternate result may be that solar installations will begin to includes power storage technology (onsite batteries, in other words).

It boggles the mind (at least it does here) that after decades of solar installations, onsite storage seems almost nonexistent. Certainly it is almost never discussed in most solar coverage.

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