What Trump Can Do for Coal

April 13, 2017

By now we know his reputation. Shoots from the lip, dismisses facts as inconvenient truths, creates his own truth from his unassailable position as billionaire newsmaker.

Yup, that’s Michael Bloomberg. With a recent editorial in The New York Times and new speechifying to green groups, the Sierra Club financier who once scolded New Yorkers for drinking soda now returns to his coal-bashing agenda. These days, it’s enough in some rarefied circles to simply oppose the president to be on the side of the angels. With enough indignation, no facts are needed.

Reportedly Mr. Bloomberg told green energy advocates last week that Trump’s promises to bring back coal jobs is “like promising the people who worked for Eastman Kodak that they’re going to get their jobs back.” Well, no, it’s not. Eastman Kodak didn’t struggle against a federal government determined to drive it out of business, coal did. Voltaire said any man in the right is in grave danger when his government is in the wrong. Equally true of the U.S. coal industry.

Mr. Bloomberg doesn’t understand this. “The truth of the matter,” he said, “is that coal is going away not because of anything other than technology and alternative fuel sources.” Whatever “the matter” is, this isn’t the “truth” of it. If coal declined only because of market forces, why did his foundation cut massive checks to finance the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in 2011? If natural gas and subsidized wind and solar power were doing the job, wouldn’t his $100 million war chest to fight coal have been better spent fighting obesity among soda drinkers?

Then there was this howler. “Even to the extent we still mine coal in this country, it’s a handful of people operating a computer and a big shovel comes along and just rips off the top of the mountain.” This is comprehensively false. In fact, the US mines enough coal to generate almost a third of our electricity. We even export coal to make steel – the stuff used to make wind turbines, solar panels, pipelines and even the skyscraper he lives in.

A “handful of people” may work on his household staff, but about 82,000 work directly in coal mining – more people than all of New York City’s potholes — and another 212,000 jobs are supported by this lot. He says the job of coal miners is to “rip off the top of the mountain,” his colorful phrase for mountaintop mining in Appalachia. But that practice has faded faster than his political career, accounting today for less than 6 percent of total production.

Mr. Bloomberg clearly doesn’t understand today’s coal industry, which may explain why he discounts the president’s efforts to revive it. He says there is virtually nothing the president can do for coal. Sure there is, and he’s done it. He’s removed the cap on coal mining from the country’s most productive region, signed Congress’s CRA death warrant for the stream rule that would have kept more than half the nation’s coal in the ground, and mothballed the Clean Power Plan that threatened more than 120,000 jobs by 2040 and about a third of coal-based electricity.

Finally, Mr. Bloomberg cited environmental pressure groups to rue the alleged health risks of coal-based electricity. He might have given a thought to the deteriorating health he caused in coal communities by financing the destruction of the jobs that hold those communities together.

Michael Bloomberg, you’re this week’s out-of-touch elitist.