Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Despite high hopes in Appalachia that Trump will bring back coal, outside experts remain skeptical

A "Frontline" segment on the PBS NewsHour took a look at the prospects for President Trump fulfilling his campaign promise to "get those miners back to work" in Appalachia, which was home to 87 percent of the coal jobs that have been lost since 2011. Economists and energy experts remain skeptical, but those in the coal industry are hopeful.

Trump won every county in West Virginia and all but the two most populous in Kentucky, Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Priyanka Boghani note. Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, told Frontline, "Since November 8th, everybody’s attitude has been much more positive in West Virginia and around the industry, simply because someone’s recognized the significance of the coal miner."

But John Deskins, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University, said "I absolutely have no idea how they could take steps to bring back coal to the levels that we saw in 2008." He noted "that a lot of the investments needed to comply with Obama-era regulations had already been made, and expenses had already been incurred," adding, “In a very, very simple sense from the perspective of coal demand, the damage has already been done.”

Chris Bollinger, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky, said he "doesn’t see the fate of coal miners in Appalachia improving under Trump, even with the easing of federal regulations," Frontline reports. "In all likelihood, he said, the benefits will go to places where the cheapest coal is still easily available—in states like Wyoming and Montana."

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