Last week, Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced, “the war on coal is over.”
If there ever was a war on coal, the coal industry has lost. According to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, many old American coal power plants are being retired or converted to natural gas, and new coal power plants aren’t being built because they’ve become more expensive than natural gas, wind, and solar energy:
“The share of US electricity coming from coal fell from 51 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in 2016—an unprecedented change. New UCS analysis finds that, of the coal units that remain, roughly one in four plans to retire or convert to natural gas; another 17 percent are uneconomic and could face retirement soon.”
Natural gas has now surpassed coal to supply 32% of US electricity (up from 21% in 2008), and solar and wind are up to 10% (from 3% in 2008).
This trend will continue. As old coal plants continue to retire and be replaced by cheaper renewables and natural gas, their share of the US electricity supply will continue to plummet, and coal will become a fossil fuel in every sense of the word. That’s why American companies continue to invest in cheap, clean renewable energy. As a result, our air and water are becoming cleaner, Americans are becoming healthier, and our carbon pollution is falling.The shift away from coal poses a challenge for regions in which the local economy depends on it, but the transition is inevitable. A wise economic policy would involve funding programs to help those regions adapt to the change during her presidential campaign. A recent study showed that Americans are willing to pay a carbon tax with some of the revenue going to assist displaced coal workers. The Trump administration has instead opted to try and slow coal’s inevitable decline.