March 22, 2017
The unseemly haste to bury coal is taking a new tact. From Axios to The Washington Post, this week’s conventional wisdom about coal is: Trump can’t put king coal back on its throne. This is how coal’s critics set up the quintessential straw man, then triumphantly knock it down. It’s a staple of reporting: choose the weakest guy to beat up to avoid the fight you can’t win.
The issue isn’t whether Trump can help coal regain its glory any more than we can expect Jeff Bezos to restore the Post’s Watergate stature. Even coal miners who know best were reluctant to take the president’s campaign pledge literally. No one in the industry expects coal to reclaim its industrial-era stature in the near future, let alone rehire every miner idled over the past decade.
The issue is whether Trump can help coal survive in the aftermath of an eight-year regulatory onslaught and keep more capacity, more production and more jobs from becoming its victims. Can he rescue good jobs and energy diversity from irresponsible policies advanced by ideologues? This is the realistic debate worth having.