Pruitt and President-elect Donald Trump "are ignoring fundamental market realities" that are buffeting the coal industry "in blaming environmental regulations under the Obama administration as the sole reason for the recent turmoil" in the industry, they write. "The natural gas glut has reshaped how we get electricity across the board, with natural gas-fired generation expected to surpass coal generation in the United States for the first time in 2016. At the same time, renewable energy is continuing to increase its market share aided by declining costs, increasing efficiency, and economies of scale."
The authors note that utilities retired 14.8 gigawatts of coal-fired electric generating capacity in 2015, and 6.5 gigawatts in the first half of 2016. For 2015, "The loss in coal energy represents 5 percent of the nation’s total coal-fired electrical generation capacity, a significant number in a single year," they write, along with a chart showing states Trump carried led the list of coal-plant retirements:
|Click on chart to view a larger version|
The authors predict, "Market forces enabling natural gas and renewable energy penetration across the nation will continue to drive down coal use. Regardless of the fate of the CPP, the utility industry is likely to move forward with cleaner energy. The CEO of Michigan’s largest electric-power provider recently announced that his company is still planning to retire eight of its nine remaining coal plants by 2030, regardless of whether Trump tries to repeal President Obama’s climate policies. Other large electric utilities are also realigning their long-term investment strategies in favor of natural gas and no-carbon power sources."
The writers work in Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program. Saha is a senior policy associate and an associate fellow, and Liu is a research assistant. Their article cites a recent paper by Saha and Mark Muro, "Growth, carbon, and Trump: State progress and drift on economic growth and emissions ‘decoupling’." On Dec. 6, Saha published an article titled "Five charts show why Trump can't deliver on his coal promises."