As Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump prepares for his big speech tonight at the Republican National Convention, Trump’s promises about the coal industry are getting some attention again.
Remember that Trump was very clear when he spoke here in Charleston a few months ago:
If I win we’re going to bring those miners back.
Yet, as Fortune points out:
Donald Trump’s promise to bring coal mining jobs back to West Virginia is pure fantasy. Even if environmental protections are eased under a Trump presidency, demand for coal, especially West Virginian coal, will continue to decline due purely to market forces. If Trump wants to help West Virginia, he should support efforts to diversify its economy into something more sustainable, like tourism or healthcare.
Likewise, there’s this report from High Country News:
Amid the federal government’s reform of coal-leasing nationwide, new environmental regulations and coalmine cutbacks and layoffs, a new report from the Energy Information Administration suggests things are likely to get even grimmer for coal mining … While the EIA’s report shows that federal regulations have played a part in industry decline, historically cheap natural gas has outcompeted coal, making it harder for coal companies to stay in business.
And here’s another piece, from The Hill, in which even a Trump supporter offers somewhat contorted projections for the future:
A key congressional ally to Donald Trump said the Republican presidential candidate would focus his coal policies first on slowing down the industry’s rapid decline.
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who acts as an informal adviser to Trump on energy policy, was asked at a Politico event near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland Wednesday how many new coal-fired power plants would open under a Trump presidency.
“I think the first thing you have to do is stop the bleeding,” Cramer responded, going on to say that Trump would then look to encourage “new technologies” to make coal a cleaner-burning energy source.
“The problem is that if we have policies like we have today that are designed to keep coal in the ground, shut it down at all costs, the innovators that could create the solutions, they’ll be out of business before they can create the solution,” Cramer said. “And we’re well on our way to a solution. But I think the race is, can they kill coal before we get to that solution?”
Just as important, remember this piece from Coal Tattoo back when Trump visited West Virginia:
Just as important, though, is another issue that Trump didn’t talk about at all: The growing crisis facing the pension and health-care funds that cover thousands upon thousands of United Mine Workers of America retirees and their families …
It’s important to remember that this looming crisis won’t go away, even if the coal industry were to suddenly rebound. The problems with the solvency of the UMWA pension plan, for example, grow from the 2008 financial meltdown (now, whose fault was that?). Even if employment were to return to pre-meltdown levels, many of the companies that were paying into the pension plan then have since been relieved of that obligation by the federal bankruptcy courts. And even if that weren’t the case, it’s far from clear that the rising contributions alone would be enough. The same goes for the union’s health-care plan financial problems.
As we’ve talked about before, President Obama has a proposal for dealing with this crisis. In Congress, members of both parties — Rep. David McKinley and Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito — have a proposal. Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has a proposal.
But when the presumptive Republican nominee for president had a huge audience of coalfield families in the palm of his hand over at the Civic Center, he didn’t think that this issue was worthy of mention.