June 15, 2017
Look hard enough at politics and you will always find irony. That’s why it “makes strange bedfellows.”
Here’s one recent example. President Trump’s support for the coal industry, together with his regulatory re-set that helped to revive it, has made coal a surrogate for him – a president the major media deeply dislikes.
This helps to explain why some appear eager to belittle the comeback in coal employment, coal mines and coal production that Trump promised. Whatever the president likes must be bad; whatever he aids must fail. The president has tied himself to a dying industry, they say. It’s the same “government-can’t-bring-them-back” narrative familiar to anyone who recalls the GM bailout.
Well, postpone the funeral. Coal has added about 2,000 direct jobs in the last year – 1,700 just since December 2016. Mines are expanding and new mines opening in Alabama, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Year-to-date production is up about 50 million tons, rail loadings are climbing despite a mild winter, coal consumption for power generation was up 5.3 percent in March YTD [EIA “Electric Power Monthly”] and both prices and exports are expected to tick upwards this year.
Well, they say, coal will never return to its dominant position, a surreptitious way of pushing back the goalposts to ensure the Trump administration’s “failure.” But few if any in the industry claim it can regain the throne it held before the shale gas revolution.