On Tuesday afternoon, President Trump promised to end the nation’s “war on coal” by rolling back many Obama-era energy regulations. Trump signed his Energy Independence Executive Order in a room full of coal miners and industry execs.
C.P.P, or as non-politicians call it, the Clean Power Plan, was one of Obama’s legacies. Released in summer 2015, it called for states to begin cutting their carbon emissions. Many environmentalists did not think the C.P.P. went far enough. More than half of the states disagreed, and 27 states took it to court. The Supreme Court did issue a stay, so it will not go into effect until they can review it. Now, this seems unlikely.
Trump framed the issue of the declining coal industry as caused by government regulations. The truth, as usual, is more complex. The coal industry has been slowly dying over the last 50 years, with the last 10 being the most destructive. Coal has become too expensive, and the cheaper natural gas has taken its place. Half of America’s energy in 2010 was produced by coal; last year it dropped to less than a third. With this drop, thousands of coal miners have been laid off, many of whom belong to families who have been mining since the 1800s.
Trump’s presidential campaign promised to bring back jobs in the coal industry and framed his decision to roll back Obama-era regulations as a way to do this. “We’re putting you back to work,” he said to the coal miners standing behind him. Unfortunately, we have no proof that this will be the outcome. Even the C.E.O. of America’s biggest privately owned coal company says coal jobs will not come back, as reported by The New Yorker. An economist who works for another coal company calls the idea a “load of crap.”
Under Trump’s new plan, the U.S.A will almost certainly not be able to meet the reduction in carbon agreed upon in the 21st Paris Climate Agreement. Despite never saying the phrase “climate change” or “global warming”, President Trump’s speech seemed like a denial of the idea. Janet McCabe, the architect of the C.P.P., calls Trump’s actions “quite a kick in the stomach.” She continues, “It’s really distressing to see the choice to just completely disregard the impacts of climate [change].” 97% of climate scientists agree that not only is Climate Change real, but it is caused by humans. Trump has publicly stated that he believes climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.
The federal budget proposed by the president last week involves cutting the E.P.A’s budget by nearly a third and defunding more than 50 of its programs. Although presidential budgets are more of a wishlist than policy, this is not a good sign to those who believe climate change is the largest challenge we’re facing as a species, such as the World Health Organization.