Trump’s Coal Miners Still out of Work, as Climate Suffers

January 22, 2018

Reuters:

President Donald Trump’s effort to put coal miners back to work stumbled in most coal producing states last year, even as overall employment in the downtrodden sector grew modestly, according to preliminary government data obtained by Reuters.

Trump made reviving the coal industry, and the declining communities that depend upon its jobs, a central tenet in his presidential campaign and has rolled back Obama-era environmental regulations to give the industry a boost.

But the effort has had little impact on domestic demand for coal so far, with U.S. utilities still shutting coal-fired power plants and shifting to cheaper natural gas – moving toward a lower carbon future despite the direction the White House is plotting under Trump.

Unreleased full-year coal employment data from the Mining Health and Safety Administration shows total U.S. coal mining jobs grew by 771 to 54,819 during Trump’s first year in office, led by Central Appalachian states like West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania – where coal companies have opened a handful of new mining areas for shipment overseas.

“You know, West Virginia is doing fantastically well,” Trump told Reuters in an interview this week about the state, which gained 1,345 coal jobs last year, according to the data. “It’s great coal.”

But the industry also lost jobs in other Appalachian states like Ohio, Kentucky, and Maryland; the western Powder River Basin states Montana and Wyoming; as well as in several other states like Indiana, New Mexico, and Texas.

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The bright spots in the industry in 2017 came amid a big surge in demand for shipments from overseas, said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.

“We have seen production rise this past year by more than six percent and exports rise five-fold over the previous year,” he told Reuters.

”Honest people can differ over how much credit the president deserves for this revival and how much credit belongs to market forces,“ he added. ”To those of us closest to the coal industry, there is little question that the administration’s regulatory reset … has made a decisive difference.”

Washington Post:

Trump claims West Virginia is exporting “clean coal” to China. But this is wrong for two reasons. One, in 2015 and 2016, West Virginia exported virtually no coal to China. Two, there is no such thing as “clean coal.” Electricity-generating plants can mitigate some of the effects of burning coal by capturing carbon dioxide and burying it, but that doesn’t make the coal itself cleaner. And more important, the bulk of the exports of coal to China involve metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel, not generate electricity.

Trump claims West Virginia is exporting “clean coal” to China. But this is wrong for two reasons. One, in 2015 and 2016, West Virginia exported virtually no coal to China. Two, there is no such thing as “clean coal.” Electricity-generating plants can mitigate some of the effects of burning coal by capturing carbon dioxide and burying it, but that doesn’t make the coal itself cleaner. And more important, the bulk of the exports of coal to China involve metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel, not generate electricity.

“One thing that I am very proud of: the state of West Virginia. Last month, it was one of the highest percentage increases in GDP, the state of Texas beat it. And people are saying, wait a minute, West Virginia just came in second. Do you know what that is about? That is about cutting regulations and letting the people go and mine.” (Oct. 11, 2017)

Trump takes credit for West Virginia’s economic gains, but it’s undeserved. For one, when the first quarter ended March 31, 2017, Trump was just two months into his presidency. While he was quick to do away with several regulations on energy production, many of the new policies have yet to take effect. The state’s recent growth is due to increased mining production and a rise in prices for coal and natural gas.

According to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, mining grew by 26.4 percent in West Virginia in the first quarter of 2017, and “data from EIA shows gains in the extraction of coal, natural gas, and petroleum bolstered mining in the state.” The increase in extraction coincided with an increase in the price of metallurgical coal and natural gas. In the first quarter of 2017, the price of metallurgical coal exports was $153 per short ton, up from $76 in the third quarter of 2016. For the first nine months of 2017, the price of natural gas was $3 per million British thermal units on average, up from a 2016 average of just under $2.50 per million BTUs.

Trump earned Four Pinocchios.

Meanwhile, coal miners still hang their hopes on the mirage of future jobs.

Reuters: 

When Mike Sylvester entered a career training center earlier this year in southwestern Pennsylvania, he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing.

He settled instead on something familiar: a coal mining course.

”I think there is a coal comeback,” said the 33-year-old son of a miner.

Despite broad consensus about coal’s bleak future, a years-long effort to diversify the economy of this hard-hit region away from mining is stumbling, with Obama-era jobs retraining classes undersubscribed and future programs at risk under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget.

Trump has promised to revive coal by rolling back environmental regulations and moved to repeal Obama-era curbs on carbon emissions from power plants.

“I have a lot of faith in President Trump,” Sylvester said.

But hundreds of coal-fired plants have closed in recent years, and cheap natural gas continues to erode domestic demand. The Appalachian region has lost about 33,500 mining jobs since 2011, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Although there have been small gains in coal output and hiring this year, driven by foreign demand, production levels remain near lows hit in 1978.

A White House official did not respond to requests for comment on coal policy and retraining for coal workers.

What many experts call false hopes for a coal resurgence have mired economic development efforts here in a catch-22: Coal miners are resisting retraining without ready jobs from new industries, but new companies are unlikely to move here without a trained workforce. The stalled diversification push leaves some of the nation’s poorest areas with no clear path to prosperity.

.. in southern Pennsylvania, where the industry still has ample reserves and is showing flickers of life, federal jobs retraining programs see sign-up rates below 20 percent, the officials and recruiters said. In southern Virginia’s coal country, participation rates run about 50 percent, they said.

“The coal industry has stabilized, but it’s not going to come back,” said Blair Zimmerman, a 40-year veteran of the mines who is now the commissioner for Greene County, one of Pennsylvania’s oldest coal regions. “We need to look at the future.”

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4 Responses to “Trump’s Coal Miners Still out of Work, as Climate Suffers”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    Yeah. Let this @rsehole shovel… his fecking own grave!

  2. J4Zonian Says:

    1. Never call it what you’re calling it; it reinforces the frame you’re trying to bury in obscurity. It’s “supposedly non-dirty coal” or “allegedly not-dirty coal”

    2. Even if one doesn’t accept the science on climate catastrophe, (which is crazy) it should be obvious that coal is losing because it’s too expensive, at least as much as because it’s crazy to keep burning it given it’s enormous harm and the excellent alternatives. The only way to change that is to mechanize more. As that happens, more miners will be out of work, without any compensation that would happen if it were done as part of a coordinated climate mobilization plan. At the same time, the health effects of years of mining will have an effect on the out-of-work miners and the devastation to health care caused by Republican’s attacks on Obama Care, unions and other programs will cause them to die younger and in more pain, while exhausting their families’ savings.

    So this is not just wrong. It’s not even just crazy, or fractally wrong. It’s fractally crazy.

  3. schwadevivre Says:

    Tell the Yorkshire, Scots, Welsh, Durham and Kentish miners that mining can be revived


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