By Alex Gonzalez
Above is some woke Holiday cheer if you’re looking for it, but the moment particularly entertaining in beginning this blog on energy is at 1:57 in the video and written below:
Santa: Careful there, Jessica, or you might get some coal in your stocking!
Jessica: From where? We both know coal is a dying industry!
The conversation on coal has, as of late, become much less about energy efficiency and much more about job security. The president ran on a campaign that promised to bring job security and stability back to the “forgotten” men and women of this country through the practice of making “America great again” even if that means the dismantling of the current laws and regulations that keep us and our planet safe. Taking steps backwards, whether it is done by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, repealing the Clean Power Plan (an Obama-era policy that “limiting carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants”), or cutting red tape in front of a stack of paperwork that is supposed to represent a bunch of 1960s regulation the Trump team is getting rid of (???) it is clear the current administration holds a contempt for the environment and/or science.
We understand part of the reason that the president loves coal is for political gain. Many Americans do believe that their jobs are being taken from them whether that is by an immigrant or by the government, these men and women are convinced there is a leftist agenda to hurt and neglect them. According to J.D. Vance, a young man from Appalachia, in his book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, “we talk about the value of hard work but tell ourselves that the reason we’re not working is some perceived unfairness: Obama shut down the coal mines, or all the jobs went to the Chinese. These are the lies we tell ourselves to solve the cognitive dissonance—the broken connection between the world we see and the values we preach.” That being said, coal country voted for Donald Trump overwhelmingly so, but economists and other scholars speculate as to whether or not the administration will be able to change the course of the energy progress cascade by removing regulations from the industry.
As we can observe from the graph above, coal production has been on it’s way down since the late 90s with a significant trade-off coming after 2008 between decreasing coal use and increasing reliance on natural gas. Thus, we see a relative false connection made between Obama and the decline in coal jobs that the Trump admin would like us to internalize because coal was on decline a decade before the senator entered office. As a confirmation of the above information provided by a graph from NPR, below is a chart generated by the US Energy and Information Administration that includes projections for electricity generation in the years 2017 and 2018 as well.