Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump puts on a miners hard hat during a rally in Charleston, W.Va., Thursday, May 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
If coal and energy issues are at the top of the list of things you care about, you had to sit through a lot of other stuff during last night’s presidential debate, but eventually you heard from Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton on this issue.
It was the next-to-last question from an audience member:
What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?
Over at West Virginia MetroNews, Brad McElhinny ran through their responses in a piece posted earlier this morning. Brad also cited “fact-check” stories by the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press. They mostly focused on the question of whether Secretary Clinton wants to put all of the nation’s coal miners out of work, an issue that is more political theater than policy or reality (see my previous analysis of this whole question here).
The thing that really needs fact-checked from this whole exchange is this from Mr. Trump:
There is a thing called clean coal. Coal will last for 1,000 years in this country.
Coal will last for 1,000 years in this country? Really? Wow.
Remember this from four years ago? That time that then-GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said, in an ad attacking President Obama’s “war on coal”, said: “We have 250 years of coal, why wouldn’t we use it?”
After looking into it at the time, here’s what we published in the Gazette:
In new campaign ads criticizing the Obama administration’s coal policies, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney cites an estimate of the nation’s remaining coal reserves that has been increasingly questioned as overly optimistic.One of two new Romney ads includes footage of his visit last month to an Ohio coal mine, with a voiceover of a Romney speech where he says, “We have 250 years of coal, why wouldn’t we use it?”
Various industry publications have cited that same estimate, saying, “The United States has more than a 250-year-supply of coal if it continues using coal at the same rate at which it uses coal today.”
But in a major report five years ago, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the best estimate it could confirm was that U.S. coal reserves would last less than half that long.
“The United States is endowed with a vast amount of coal,” said the report, written by a panel of geologists, engineers and industry officials for the National Academy’s National Research Council.
“Despite significant uncertainties in generating reliable estimates of the nation’s coal resources and reserves, there are sufficient economically mineable reserves to meet anticipated needs through 2030,” said the report, written at the request of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. “Further into the future, there is probably sufficient coal to meet the nation’s needs for more than 100 years at current rates of consumption,” the report said. “However, it is not possible to confirm the often-quoted suggestion that there is a sufficient supply of coal for the next 250 years.”