Coal jobs are still going away despite Trump's promises. But he is making it easier for polluters to have their way and threaten more people's lives.
Despite his grandiose promises on the campaign trail, the coal industry continues to lose jobs and fade away as an energy source. At the same time, Trump is making it easier for coal companies — who bankroll Republican campaigns — to pollute the environment.
In 2016, Trump made often claims like "we're going to put our miners back to work." Even at the time, it was a statement disconnected from reality.
Coal is a backward-facing technology, and making the promise that he would bring it back was akin to promising a return to horses and carriages as cars became available.
Even as Trump headed to West Virginia, the heart of the coal industry, for a campaign rally, the local paper noted experts agree coal isn't rebounding.
West Virginia University law professor James Van Nostrand explained, "I think peoples’ hopes were raised in a cruel way by Trump."
Bloomberg reports that the coal industry "is still losing U.S. customers as utilities increasingly turn to natural gas and renewable power to generate electricity."
Andrew Cosgrove, a Bloomberg Intelligence senior analyst, told the outlet, "Power plant retirements are still happening and set to continue looking out through the end of [Trump's] term."
The U.S. government, via the Energy Information Administration, forecasts lowered coal production, consumption and exports through 2019.
Yet at the same time, Trump is working to allow existing coal production to release more pollution into the atmosphere.
Trump is proposing "the Affordable Clean Energy rule," which would undo the Clean Power plan put in place by President Barack Obama. While the Obama plan sped up the closure of coal plants that produce dangerous greenhouse gases, the Trump plan merely makes minor improvements in plants and allows states to relax pollution rules.
Their plan would lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths each year, according to the Trump administration's own estimates.
The Trump plan would allow increased rates of dangerous microscopic airborne particulates that have been linked to heart and lung disease, and can lead to asthma and bronchitis.
Conrad Schneider of the Clean Air Task Force told the New York Times, "With the Trump dirty power plan we see again that the Trump administration cares more about extending the lives of coal plants than the American people."
Major polluters in the coal industry have invested heavily in Trump and maintain heavy influence over his energy policy.
Coal baron Robert Murray spent $300,000 to back Trump in 2016 and donated another $300,000 to Trump's low-attendance inauguration. He recently donated $1 million to America First Action, Trump's designated pro-Trump super PAC.
In exchange, Murray has been directly involved in drafting rules and regulation for the energy industry, and handed off a pro-industry "action plan" to Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Trump isn't fulfilling his pipe-dream promise of bringing back coal because that is essentially impossible. But along the way, he is making life easier for the coal industry polluters who financed his campaign and other Republicans.
The effect of those efforts will be death and sickness for thousands of Americans and an environment worse off for future generations.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.