Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Why didn't Trump mention coal in the State of the Union?

President Trump said in his State of the Union address Tuesday night that the American economy is soaring, partly because of what he calls a "revolution in American energy." He noted that the U.S. is the world's biggest producer of oil and natural gas, and is a net exporter of energy for the first time in 65 years. But he never mentioned coal, once his favorite energy topic.

"Gone were lines about his effort to end the 'war' on coal the Obama administration waged that were in his 2018 address to Congress," Dino Grandoni writes for The Washington Post.  The omission could be because the Trump administration has had a difficult time reviving the coal industry, Grandoni ventures; total coal consumption in the U.S. was expected to hit a 40-year low last year, though the final figures are not yet in.

"The Energy Department's plan to subsidize hurting coal plants at the behest of Trump campaign booster and coal baron Robert Murray never got off the ground," Grandoni notes. "Despite the rollback of some air-pollution rules extending the life of some coal facilities, the closure of coal plants nationwide has continued apace during Trump's presidency — with 16 gigawatts of coal-fired power going offline in 2018, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance." Meanwhile, increasingly cheap natural gas, solar and wind energy are replacing coal-fired power plants even in Central Appalachia, Grandoni writes.

He questions whether Trump's policies are responsible for the energy sector's growth, noting that the U.S. has been the world's top oil and gas producer since 2012, and that new extraction technologies like hydraulic fracturing are the biggest driver of the boom.

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