Why Saving The Coal Industry Is A Bad Idea
Saving the coal industry is a bad idea.
When Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency back in 2016, he talked about revamping coal efforts. He publicly expressed doubt on climate change and environmental problems that we face today.
You might remember when Trump, back in 2016, said the Chinese invented climate change as a hoax to neuter the US economy.
In his exact words: “the concept of global warming was invented by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”
It isn’t exactly clear where he got that idea from.
Trump’s Attempt At Saving Old Industries Brought A Lot Of Criticism
Ever since he beat Hillary, it seems as though Trump has been trying to bring back old ideas and old ways of doing things that most of us have realized are no longer modern.
Coal is one of them.
When he took office, Trump said the coal industry has fallen apart and that he would try to bring it back to life.
Saving A Dying Industry
His statements on coal brought him a lot of criticism on both sides of the political spectrum. The issue is that he’s trying to salvage a dying industry. And an industry that is typically hazardous to the environment, no less.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, who loves to spar with Trump in the media, said that trying to save coal was like passing legislation to protect “Blockbuster.”
In other words, trying to save coal may be a complete waste of time, considering the fact that better alternatives are continuing to pop up, and they’re often cheaper than coal.
Natural Gas And Other Forms Of Energy Are Becoming Cheaper Alternatives
We’re going to see yet another big drop in the amount of coal used for our electricity needs. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis claims that around 15.4 gigawatts of coal capacity will disappear this year.
And according to the New York Times, the coal-powered plants in existence are not used nearly as much anymore. For the most part, we’re using natural gas, wind, and solar power. But especially, natural gas.
We’re entering an age where alternative energy just isn’t as expensive as it used to be, and coal-fired power plants are not a good choice because of that.
Not even because of political and social pressure emphasizing environmental concerns, but because of basic economics.
Other Alternative Sources Of Energy Are Pushing Out Coal And Nuclear Power
According to the Times, Xcel Energy, an electricity company based out of Colorado, said they would save a quarter of a billion dollars by terminating two of their older coal-fired power plants.
Initially, they intended to get rid of them by 2028, but alternative energy is looking better and better all of the time, so they’re ahead of schedule. They want to replace it with a mixture of wind, natural gas, battery storage, and solar.
And other countries are following suit around the world. The EU just announced today, Thursday, June 14th, that they would increase the share of renewable energy production to around 32% by 2030.
The EU also revealed they would stop importing the Southeast Asian resource, palm oil, the production of which leads to the destruction of rainforests around the world and threatens to throw animals such as the orangutan into extinction.
Why Do Rainforests Matter?
A person might ask why does it matter if the rainforests are gone? Destroying ecosystems, like the rainforest, for example, disrupts the natural ebb and flow of the planet.
Rainforests are the home to thousands, possibly even millions of organisms and foods that are used by animals, humans, insects, and the smallest organisms alive. They’re crucial in the regulation of carbon dioxide, climate temperature, and the water cycle.
The EU Is Trying Hard To Meet The Standards Set By The Paris Agreement
The EU is trying to reduce their greenhouse emissions by 40% lower than their 1990 levels by the year 2030, in accordance with the Paris Agreement.
The World Is Moving Forward And The US Is Moving Backwards On Energy Use
Joshua D. Rhodes, who studies energy use at the University of Texas Austin, said Americans “built a lot of our coal fleet 40 years ago,” and it’s no longer lucrative to keep them going. They just cost too much money and there are better lower-cost options.
This is good news because coal is a disaster when it comes to climate change and detrimental effects on the surrounding environment and ecosystem.
Coal produces more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than literally any other source of power. However, a lot of these companies are losing business, and like most entities, aren’t willing to let it all go.
Coal Companies Have Asked For Trump’s Help
Coal companies have asked the president to help them out, and he has vowed to do so. On the 1st of June, Donald Trump ordered his Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, to “prepare immediate steps” to stop the closure of coal and nuclear power plants.
And they’re supposedly intending to begin intervening in the American electricity markets to stop the closure of these plants.
In areas of the country where there are deregulated electricity systems, companies in the business of creating and selling energy compete with others to sell their power to the grid.
However, an influx of natural gas has led to its drop in price. And because of that, nuclear and coal energy is just too expensive.
Trump’s Administration May Force Grid Operators To Buy Coal And Nuclear Power
According to the memo leaked by the administration and picked up by the New York Times, the Energy Department may try and get around these market forces by forcing the grid operators to buy electricity at rates from at-risk coal and nuclear plants.
Moreover, in the last 5-6 years, many nuclear power plants have begun shutting down. Six reactors have closed operations since 2013, because of the cost of maintenance as well as competition from natural gas companies.
Nuclear Power Is Actually Relatively Clean In Comparison To Coal
However, it’s important to note that nuclear power is actually a very clean source of energy – with the exception of what to do with the by-products of the power production process.
Nuclear power is a form of carbon-free electricity, although there are obvious dangers of its use. Like the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, for instance.
And if some of these plants close, natural gas will replace them, and natural gas operations still produce emissions and carbon dioxide when its burned for electricity.
Critics typically lump coal and nuclear power together, but nuclear power has some utility as an energy source.
It’s better than coal when it comes to the effect on the environment. The problem with it, however, is the possibility of a nuclear meltdown as well as the disposal of the nuclear waste.
The White House Is More Focused On Economics Than Environmental Concerns
And as everyone knows, the White House is not overly concerned with environmental problems. They are interested in saving some nuclear power plants, not because of environmental concerns, but on matters related to industry and the economy.
However, other states have tried to subsidize their failing nuclear power plants for the sake of fighting climate change. New Jersey, Illinois, and New York have all done so, in some form or another.
So What Is Trump’s Administration Planning To Do?
Trump may intend to help companies like FirstEnergy, a company coming out of Ohio. They recently declared bankruptcy in April, and three nuclear plants and two coal plants may close because of this.
FirstEnergy has asked the administration for help, as has Robert E. Murray, who donates a lot of money to Trump. Robert’s company sells coal to FirstEnergy.
However, if this plan goes forward, other oil and gas companies have threatened to file lawsuits against the federal government.
The memo obtained by the New York Times supposedly indicates that the White House would use “emergency powers” for the sake of saving some of these industries.
Subsidizing Nuclear Power and Coal May Result In Higher Prices
Their rationale is that the loss of coal and nuclear plants would threaten the reliability of USA’s electricity grid. However, the grid operators themselves have stated this is not the case, and there is no need for emergency powers.
Another worry is the fact that unprofitable power plants, funded through government subsidies, may jack up the price for regular consumers and citizens.
If the Trump administration chooses to bail out some of these failing companies, it would cost around $311 billion or $11.8 billion per year.
And some of the administration’s own appointees have stated that it’s not a good idea, and may “blow up” the market and result in huge increases of rates without any benefit.