Trump Policies to the Coal Industry – Part 1

(1) Decline in Coal Production

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt used to brag about how much the US was reducing carbon emissions, even while he was denying climate change was a problem and the Paris Climate Change Accords were against the best interests of our country.    One reason for our lower emissions  is the less of our electricity on a percentage basis  comes from dirtiest  fossil fuels- coal.   As shown in the above chart,  US coal shipments from mines were 661 million short tons (mST).   This is the lowest coal shipments since 1983 – wow 35 years!

The above graph shows only coal shipped within the US.  EIA also posted higher total production statistics which includes exports.  For 2017, the preliminary estimate of total production is 774 mST,  a slight improvement over 2016 production of 728 mST.   This slight uptick is probably not going to last as preliminary first quarter production (Jan-Mar 2018) declined by 5.2% over the prior quarter.  The trendline is either flat or down.  See link below for these statistics.

Donald Trump supposedly “digs coal.”  But the electric utilities don’t because it is more expensive.  They have been switching to natural gas during the last 20 years which includes the Bush and Obama administrations.  Particularly hard hit were coal mines on the east cost.     Note: this report was produced by the Energy Information Agency, a part of the Department of Energy, headed by former Texas governor Rick Perry.

There was a short video on one of the cable stations, touting the success of Trump’s policies, as evidence by how many coal filled barges were going down the Mississippi river.   Given  how little coal is transported by river barges, one can see this was pure nonsense.   Just partisan politics dressed up as a news story.

Coal is used primarily to generate electricity.  About 30% of our electricity  comes from coal in 2016.  It was 52% of our electricity  in 1997.   As shown in the graph below,  in the last 66 years, the percentage of electricity generated by coal  has never been this low.

Natural gas began its rise around 1989 with 10% share and never looked back.   Nonhydro renewables, primarily solar and wind have increased since 2005.   Going from 2% to 8% with alternatives  is a 4 fold increase. According to the EIA, wind turbines account for 6% of US electricity generation, leaving only 2% for solar.   I believe the graph below does not include electricity from residential solar panels.

The graph seems to show declining use of hydroelectric power, but this is really the effect of the increase in electrical demand being satisfied by other fuels, as shown below.  If the period from 1975 to 2015 is examined, it shows that hydroelectric supplies between 250 to 350 bKW, with a flat trendline.  For renewable fuels, solar and wind turbines are the big growth areas now and in the future.  Non-renewables account for 84% of the US electricity.  The general trend of increasing renewables can be seen in many countries.  For instance, Germany fossil fuels and nuclear for electricity account for  70%, with coal percentage in decline and natural gas percentage on the increase.

(2) Stream Protection Rule

One of the first actions of newly elected Donald Trump, with the help of Congress was to repeal the Stream Protection Rule, which was a detailed clarification of prior rules for the dumping of debris from new mines into streams.  Hundreds of miles of streams and rivers are lost.    Environmentalists at the time did not think the rule went far enough.   Coal mining in four states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia) dynamite the top of the mountain (called mountain top removal, or MTR), and the “spoils” or tailings are dumped into river valleys.   The destruction of the environment is pretty terrible, and includes land, water and air pollution.

As correctly pointed out in the VOX article:

Coal mining is a messy business. In parts of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia, mining companies often get at underground coal seams by blowing up the tops of mountains — a process known as mountaintop removal mining. Once that’s done, they’ll dump the debris into the valleys below, which can contaminate streams and waterways with toxic heavy metals.  Appalachian Voices, an environmental group, estimates that coal companies have buried over 2,000 miles of streams in the region through mountaintop removal mining since the 1990s. And there’s growing evidence that when mining debris and waste gets into water supplies, the toxic metals can have dire health impacts for the people and mostly rural communities living nearby.

And  VOX nailed it when they wrote in Feb 2017:

Scrapping the stream protection rule might help boost the bottom lines of some mining companies at the margins, but it’s unlikely to reverse the long inexorable downward trend of mining jobs in Appalachia.

The quarterly statistics show large declines in 2017Q4 to 2018Q1 in anthracite coal in Pennsylvania (-43%),  and coal production declines in   Tennessee (-63%),  Virginia (-9.4%) and Kentucky (-13%),  really undercutting Trump’s claim that the production declines was a result of “Obama’s war on coal.”

(3) Robert Murray,  Murray Coal, the Clean Power Plan and Andrew Wheeler (Scary Stuff)

Robert Murray is the CEO of Murray Coal.   He seems to have the inside track to President Trump on setting energy policies.  His policies seem radical, and only in the best interest of large chemical and mining corporations.   He sent VP Pence an action plan, which included cutting the EPA workforce in half.  This would be around 7,000 employees, back to the number of employees when the agency was first created in 1973.   An extremely important function of the EPA is approval of pesticides used in agriculture.  It would be very scary proposition to revert to pre-Rachel Carson era, when chemical companies could self certify the safety of pesticides.  See link, “How a Coal Baron’s Wish List became President Trump’s To-Do list.”

Robert Murray’s political philosophy seems anchored on the conviction that global warming is non-existent, and the only reason for the decline in coal production is unnecessary government regulation at all levels.  At the very top of the Murray action plan, is the Clean Power Rule,  one of the achievements of the Obama administration, which Murray has claimed is illegal.   The basis for this contention was that the rule was not approved by Congress, and President Obama was overstepping his authority.   In 2016, the Supreme Court halted enforcement of the regulation, pending resolution in the courts.

The EPA under President Obama conducted numerous studies, showing that the primary benefactors of the Plan, were low income or coal miners, who lived close to coal fueled power plants.  Opponents of the Plan claimed that this would raise unemployment in coal mining states and cause power plants to shut down.  There are difference of opinions on the economic impact of the plan.

President Trump is strongly opposed to the Clean Power Plan.  The proposed 2018 budget does not include any funds for enforcement of the Clean Power Plan.   It can not easily be repealed without avoid  court challenges by supporters.    At present,  the acting administrator of the EPA is Andrew Wheeler, who is a former lobbyist for the coal industry.  On June 20, 2018, it was revealed that prior to Wheeler’s appointment at EPA, he worked with Robert Murray and other coal companies, seeking repealing of Obama administration policies.

The documents also show the role played by now-EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who then worked as Murray’s lobbyist, in setting up the meeting, where the coal boss presented Perry with a four-page action plan for repealing environmental regulations viewed as burdensome for the coal industry. During his confirmation hearing for the EPA post, Wheeler told senators that he had briefly seen the document and acknowledged taking part in the meeting.

So, Trump has turned over running the EPA to the lobbyist for a coal baron, Robert Murray.  Murray went one step further with his crusade, and wrote 6 executive orders, for Trump to sign.  Pretty audacious!   The political views of Senator Jim Imhofe (R-OK),  Scott Pruitt (former EPA Administrator, former AG of Oklahoma) and Andrew Wheeler are all pretty similar.  In fact, Wheeler was Imhofe’s legislation aide. See link at bottom “Who is Andrew Wheeler (and why you should be afraid of him).”

To be continued in Part 2.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 Links:

EIA:  2017 Coal Shipments

The link below is pretty long, and not easy to find on the new EPA site (thanks Scott Pruitt):

EIA  First Quarter 2018  and full year 2017 Production

EPA 2003:  Environmental Impact Statement, Mountain Top Removal (during Bush administration)

The article really nailed it, as stating that killing the stream production act was unlikely to reverse the decline in the coal industry.  But Trump owed a favor to Robert Murray.

VOX: Why Trump just killed a rule restricting coal companies from dumping waste in streams

How a Coal Baron’s Wish List Became President Trump’s To-Do List

A Coal Executive’s “Action Plan” For Trump Is Made Public

Bob Murray drafted 6 executive orders for Trump’s signature

Who is Andrew Wheeler?

Newsandviews.net post Coal industry subsidies based on a pretext

Trump Policies to Coal Industry – Part 2

The prior posts (Part 1: Trump’s Policies) showed coal production to still be in decline.  Trump’s elimination of the Stream Protection Act, was easy, because it was not a law.  It was unfortunate because so much time had been devoted to finding a solution to the massive dumping of debris containing toxic heavy metals into stream valleys.   The eastern states of Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee will have to manage the ecological destruction on their own.   Trump is making the Clean Power Plan to be unenforceable through cutting the funding.  EPA will work to dismantle the Plan in a legal manner, under the direction of the new administrator, Andrew Wheeler.   EPA studies showed the end of the program would be most detrimental to low income families who live in close proximity to the mines.  Environmental groups will attempt to keep the plan alive, but this is an uphill battle.

I included in Part 1, the cornerstone of Robert Murray, Senator Jim Imhofe,  and Andrew Wheeler’s policies, is that global warming is either non-existent or the effects are exaggerated.  Scott Pruitt was  defiant to scientists, who opined that the severity of Hurricane Maria may have been affected by warmer waters as a result of global warming.   He stated it was disrespectful to the victims to politicize the damage.   Trump visited Puerto Rico,  and infuriated  residents by downplaying the severity of the damage.

Coal as an energy source has been in decline for years due to the abundance of natural gas.  Ordinarily, this should be viewed as beneficial as  coal burning in power plant is the worst way to generate electricity as it causes many environmental problems beyond global warming.  It is estimated by the EPA that 230 miles of streams and rivers have been eliminated by the dumping of debris as a result of mountain top blasting.

Climate Change Denial and the Paris Accords

Trump campaigned that he would pull out of the Paris Climate Accords.  Legally, the US will not be out of the accord until 2020.   No other country has pulled our of the agreement nor  supported the US decision to withdraw.  Major oil companies supported the Paris Climate Accords, likely because they could see the benefit of power plants switching to natural gas.

The NYT article, “The Year Global Warming turned Model into Menace” reported on the devastating impacts of global warming.  It was predicted that more extreme weather event would result, including extreme cold and hot periods.   The latest extreme events include heat related deaths in Japan, the shutdown of nuclear reactors in Europe because the river water became too warm, agricultural losses in Sweden and El Salvador and forest fires in California.

Clean Coal Technology

Release of byproducts of coal burning can be reduced, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen  oxide and mercury with appropriate technology.  However, carbon dioxide is still released.  The clean coal technology incorporates carbon capture and storage or carbon sequestration.  See link below.    This increases the cost of coal, and would only be for regulatory compliance, as with the Clean Power Plan.  Unfortunately, this Plan appears to be dead under the Trump administration.

Protecting our electrical grid 

For decades, coal was promoted as  vital for reliable,  low cost energy.    To prevent uneconomical coal powered plants from being shut down, coal executives lobbied the Department of Energy to   subsidize their operation.   Secretary of the DOE submitted a proposal to FERC for subsidies.   It was a very creative proposal,  The coal and nuclear industries would be paid to keep a 90 day supply of fuel available, just in case of hurricanes or other natural disasters.  In January 2018, the FERC rejected this proposal, citing a DOE report, as requested by Rick Perry:

“In fact, the Department of Energy’s own recent ‘grid reliability’ study found the current grid is highly reliable, despite an ever decreasing amount of coal-fired generation.”

Bernard McNamee has been nominated to the FERC and there is speculation that the coal bailout plan might be revived.  The opponents of the bailout plan, the first time around, were a strange coalition of the lobbyist organization for oil and gas industry, namely  the American Petroleum Institute,  and environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club.

Conclusion:

Solar energy and wind generated electricity have increased dramatically, however they have a long ways to go to contribute significantly to our energy needs.  Recent trade tariffs against China have resulted in a 30% tariff on solar panels.  The solar industry in the US employs  approximately 250,000 people compared to about 70,000 in the coal industry.  Trade tariffs on imported steel are hurting the oil and gas industry, which is an extensive customer of steel (wells, drilling rigs, production platforms, tankers and storage).

It is indeed fortunate that coal fired plants are being replaced by  plants using natural gas.  The US may reduce its carbon emissions simply through market forces.   Still, Trump has appointed many in government whose don’t really look at the public’s best interests.  If the bailout plan is submitted again, the opponents will be citing the DOE grid study as reasons to reject it.

Stay tuned,

Davew

Links:

Clean Power Plan

Wikipedia:  US withdraws from the Paris Accords

Wikipedia:  Clean Coal Technology

Federal Regulator Rejects Energy Department’s Bid To Prop Up Coal, Nuclear

https://www.npr.org/2017/10/12/557367017/is-this-how-the-trump-administration-might-save-coal

Trump coal bailout plan to have powerful ally if frontrunner for energy agency opening is confirmed
Bernard McNamee is among half a dozen former TPPF officials who hold positions in Trump administration.

Coal Industry

Regulations are killing the coal industry.  They are destroying jobs.  They destroy who communities and a way of life.  Obama declared war on the coal industry. I dig coal.

This is of course not my opinion.  It’s the opinion of  Trump and EPA director, Scott Pruitt.   I think the recent Frontline show, War on EPA, provides the viewpoints of both Trump supporters and opponents.  You can see the entire program online:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/war-on-the-epa/

About 50 minutes into the program, there is this wonderful quote from Betsy Sutherland, who  was the Director of the Office of Science and Technology until Sept 2017,  about working with Scott Pruitt, “He just doesn’t ask any questions.”  Bob Murray, COE of Murray Coal was quite candid about his influence on the Trump administration: “I gave Mr. Trump what I call an action plan very early on.  It’s about 3 1/2 pages long.  He’s wiped out [completed] page one.

As very briefly mentioned in the program, it is not just about carbon emission, but a long range of regulations on harmful pollutants that Scott Pruitt is rolling back.  These regulation range from the reporting of methane emissions from the natural gas industry to the banning of harmful pesticides.  Another words, what industry wants is exactly what industry gets.  You can’t be sued for methane emissions if nobody knows how much was released.

And one would think that the fossil fuel industry would be soaring on the news that the Clean Power Act is about to be repealed by the EPA.  This is hardly the case.  I can’t say how Murray Coal is reacting to Trump’s agenda because it is a private company.  However, the stock price of the  world’s largest coal company with a market cap of around 3 billion dollars, Peabody Energy (BTU), continued it’s downward decline, with a stock price of around $28/shr, far below its Nov 2012 price of $377/shr.The coal industry has been in a long term decline.  What is killing the coal industry is automation in the mines, and low cost natural gas, not regulation.  The lack of enthusiasm from the stock market on coal stocks pretty well proves this point.

The benefits of the Clean Power Plan Act were far reaching, and included economic, climate and health benefits.  When Scott Pruitt was asked about the relationship between the recent series of hurricane and warming waters due to climate change, he said this was not the appropriate time to consider this subject.  I consider it highly appropriate time to recognize climate change is a factor in the intensity of hurricanes.

Related Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Power_Plan

Fareed Zakarian, columnist for the Washington Post, really got it right!

China is winning the Future

Stay tuned,

Dave

The leaked DOE Report

The Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, issued a memorandum on April 14, 2017 directing  preparation of a study that examines whether recent problems associated with baseload power plants may be putting the nations’s energy security and reliability at risk.

It was to be a 3 month study.   A June 26, 2017 draft was leaked and posted to the internet.  The leaked draft report is provided below. It is long detailed technical analysis.

353980477-DOE-Reliability-and-Baseload-Report-Draft-June-26

Many fear that the report would try to blame the government subsidies for alternative energy sources, including wind and solar,  for the decline in the coal use.  The study clearly points out that fossil fuel and nuclear plants also benefit from government subsidies.

Oil is generally not used as a fuel for power plants.  The main fuels are natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar and wind power, with the latter 3 considered renewables.

What will be interesting, is whether the Secretary will accept the findings of his Department, or attempt to reformulate the report.  It is due to be released next week, so we will know for sure, if the official study is much different from this draft.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

How much of Trump’s speech on exiting the Paris Accords was true?

It was an amazing concoction of false statements and misleading or invalid statistics.   Of course, this is Trump’s style.  The transcript of the speech is shown below:

Transcript of the speech

In fact, it is hard to find anything remotely honest in the entire speech.  All the dire economic consequences of the Accords were from an outside consulting study (NERA)  based on  highly unrealistic set of assumptions. The NERA study had other scenarios with more realistic assumptions.  It was produced in March 2017 and paid for by a conservative political organization.    None of the economic projections were  based on EPA studies.  Other studies  have repeatedly shown many positives to our economy, including  investments in clean energy will  create many high paying jobs.

It would have been a simple  2 minute speech if it were a honest one, as it would read, “Steve Bannon and the extreme conservatives don’t like the accord, because like the UN itself, we spend money to help solve the world’s problem.  Plus, global warming isn’t like crime in the streets; it doesn’t make big headlines in the news.”

Trump began his speech by mentioning the  casino attack in the Philippines as  a terrorist attack.  It was a botched robbery according to police.  But, at the time of the speech, ISIS had claimed responsibility, as they are prone to do with almost  any mass killings.  So, Trump has as supporting evidence, only ISIS.

Trump mentioned a long list of achievements, which really overlap with the Obama administration.    The job increase was really inline with gains in employment seen from about October 2016 until now.  Nothing remarkable.

The word “Global Warming” was not in Trump’s speech, nor is there any admission of a problem of our carbon emission.  His line, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh not Paris” received applause from those gathered in the Rose Garden.   The Paris Accord is a world agreement of 193 counties which could have been agreed upon in Pittsburgh.

It is a voluntary agreement, where each country makes pledges or commitments to reduce their own emissions.  Some environmentalists were disappointed at how low the targets were, but at least there were these basic elements (1) Admission that a global problem exists (2) Carbon emissions by the 193 countries can be monitored and reported to the United Nations (3) Each country is free to determine how they will reduce their emissions and (4) Developed countries will each set up a “Green Fund” to assist undeveloped countries in developing technology and programs to produce clean energy.

The citizens of Pittsburgh will pay more for food,  along with the rest of the US, as flooding and violent storms increases due to global warming. To keep our farms functioning,  taxpayers will continue to subsidize crop insurance, right now about 26 billion dollars.  It’s going to get a whole lot worse.  Sea levels will rise and places like Florida will have a difficult time with their fresh water supply.

With the dismantling of the Clean Power Act, solar energy investments will slow and jobs will be lost.  Coal employment (~60,000 employees) is not going to recover because power plants will use natural gas.   A good example is Cloud Peak Energy, which had a market cap of 500 million on November 7, 2016, now is reduced in half to 250 million.   Peabody Coal came out of bankruptcy on April 10, 2017 and so far has lost about 10% in market value  (market cap losses = 235 million dollars).

I saw on the news last night, a wonderful woman from West Virginia saying, “I’m not a climate change denier.”

Now the fact checking:

Factcheck.org

Politifact.com

The  economic statistics were generated in March 2017 by a consulting firm, which Trump pulled some statistics based on some extreme assumptions.

The Paris Accords were terribly miss  characterized by Trump.  Each country has pledged targets for carbon emissions and it is up to each country to develop programs or technologies to achieve these goals. Some countries are doing well in achieving their target goals.

I like how Politifact.com described the economic statistics:

Trump cited a number of negative statistics about the predicted economic impact from the climate deal, including a $3 trillion drop in gross domestic product, 6.5 million industrial sector jobs lost and 86 percent reduction in coal production, all by 2040.

Take these statistics with a grain of salt.

It’s just more BS, to be honest.

Politifact.com  and factcheck.org  websites found very similar dishonest statements.

Economic statistics:  Based on a flawed study

The statement, “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. But, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement.”  is not in the agreement.

Statement, “At 3-4% growth, as I expect, we will need all forms of American energy, or our country will be at grave risk of brownouts and blackouts.”

A growth rate of 3 to 4% hasn’t happened in the last 12 years.  The red hot economy of 2005 ended with the collapse of housing market in 2007, and the recession lasting through 2009.  What seems immensely absent in the speech, is that fossil fuels are non-renewable fuels. Their extraction is becoming more expensive not because of regulation, but because we have used up so much of the easy to extract fossil fuels.

Global warming needs carbon emissions monitoring and goal setting.  Obama set this in motion.  Trump just denies the problem exists.  Trump is not making the country great.  He is making China great by sacrificing our technological leadership in clean energy.   June 1, 2017 was a disgraceful day, as we exited the world accord on global warming with a speech with a rapid fire series of flawed statistics and dishonest conclusions.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Paris Accords Exit

The announcement will be made at 3:00 pm today (June 1, 2017).    It has been widely rumored that Trump will pull out of the Accords.  The Agreement was a very major step forward in acceptance of a global problem.

CNN outlined three options that Trump has: (1) The Normal Exit- by withdrawing from the Accords by 2020 (2) The Radical  Exit- by withdrawing from the UN organization (UNFCCC) under which the Accords were agreed upon and (3) The non-exit, which Trump simply ignores the provisions of the Accords.

The radical exit is the one supported by conservative groups,  such as the Heritage group.  The coal companies such as Peabody and Cloud Peak Coal, want Trump not to exit the Accords, as this puts the EU in a leadership role in setting targets.

Options

A final option (“death in the legislature” option)  is for Trump to  state the Accord is really a treaty, which must be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate.  With the Republican controlled Senate, the treaty would be “dead on arrival.”   This would change the issue to one of Obama overstepping his authority, and Trump might just go for it.

The Paris Agreement is more of an “agreement in principal”  rather than a treaty, as it lacks any penalties for countries who do not reduce their carbon emissions. It is an important first step as it is an  agreement of mutual commitment  to a global problem.   As it is structured,  the US could stay in the Accords,  do nothing to reduce these emissions and not be sanctioned by the UN.

Obama signed the agreement as an Executive Order.  Trump can legally exit the agreement, but has to comply with the set schedule if he wants to do the normal exit.

I predict that many countries will be looking more at the “non-exit” or “non-compliance” option, which means climate change is something leaders of the countries are concerned about, but  nobody does much about it.

This will leave the US as the only one of 193 countries to exit the Accord.

Stay tuned,

Dave

A Seat at the Table for the Devil

The Paris Climate Agreement was considered a major breakthrough by most environmentalists.  The US was e in a leadership role recognizing  carbon emissions reductions requires international agreements, particularly from Brazil, India and China.

Trump vigorously campaigned against the Paris  Climate Agreement.   He said repeatedly the Agreement  was against our national interest, and was a job killing/ coal industry destruction plan.  The Democrats were trying to put the coal industry out of business.

Now, two of the largest coal companies,  Peabody and Cloud Peak are urging Trump to break his promises and stay in the Paris Climate Agreement.     Murray Energy,  a private company which bills itself as America’s largest coal company, wants Trump to pull out.  Robert Murray was at the signing of the Executive Orders to rescind the Clean Power regulations.

The reasons to stay in, is to keep EU leaders from taking control and setting tight international  environmental standards on the burning of coal.    This would hurt US export of coal, which declined by 23% in 2015.  The 2016 figures have not yet been released, but I don’t expect any better numbers. Our exports are around 74 million short tons.  Major declines in exports were from UK, Italy and South Korea in 2015.

It is also quoted in the article below that pulling out of the Accords might affect World Bank funding for international coal projects, which would hurt only the very large coal companies. Most of the coal companies operate only in the US.   Peabody coal owns coal  mines in Australia.  It may be there is concern with World Bank financing new coal generating plants.  Being part of the Accords can give the major platform to promote “clean coal technology.”

US Coal Companies ask Trump to stick with Paris Climate Deal

Trump’s campaign rode on Republican rhetoric and the highly simplistic theme of  America First.   The most pro-coal industry president we ever had, may end up doing more harm than good to his supporters.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

Coal Companies and Jobs

For those who watch Jim Cramer’s Mad Money show, one might thing the coal producers would be the perfect “Trump stock” as the EPA is set to reverse course on air pollution standard regulations, enacted during the Obama era.

But coal stocks are not doing well at least in the last 3 months.  Since the beginning of 2017, Arch Coal (ARCH) is down 16% and Cloud Peak Energy (CLD) is down 27%.

We have plenty of coal resources, but declining demand.  See prior post, “Coal Craziness” for more details with links.   The decline in employment over the last 70 years or so, is due to a high level of mechanization in the mines as well as less demand for coal.  The electric producers will use the lowest cost fuel, and natural gas is a very competitive alternative to coal.

I suggested in my last post, that coal miners might be able to retrain for the more lucrative area of the manufacturing of  solar energy photo-voltaic panels.  A recent university study suggests this is possible, and the benefits would be enormous:

Coal to solar transition

The coal industry is not disappearing (sorry Al Gore) but the solar energy industry is likely to be booming in the next 5 to 10 years.

Investing in solar energy has been a bumpy ride.   I would never think “green energy” and Trump policies go together.  But based on  year to date, investing in a solar power fund  (KWT)  would have made about 10%, better than the market average of 6%.    Pulling out the international agreements to reduce fossil fuel emissions, and subsidies for the solar industry are among the worst plans of the Trump administration.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Coal Craziness

One of President Trump’s promises was to bring back coal mining jobs.   The total mine workers in the coal industry is around 65,000 employees.down from peak of around 80,000 employees in 2011.

EIA website statistics

The production and  consumption over the last 15 years look pretty similar- a rising trend then a declining trend beginning in 2008.

The Energy Information Agency of the US Department of Energy, provides a comprehensive report each year.  A link to the 2016 report is provided below:

EIA Report on coal

There are really no encouraging statistics within this report.  Coal prices are down significantly.  Virginia’s coal prices were down 20%.   Productive capacity, or how much the US could produce, is definitely in decline.  There is a 5% increase in productivity,  or the tons of coal produced per employee- which might help the bottom line of mining companies, but further reduces employment.

US coal is used to produce electricity.  The reason for the decline in coal prices, production, consumption and employment is cheaper natural gas.

EIA Update on Natural Gas Prices

The trend to more power plants using natural gas is likely to continue.  The warm winter likely means less energy use.  Both natural gas and coal consumption are likely to decline in the next few months.

Deregulation is likely not to change much of the basic economics. See link:

Deregulation won’t work

Note that in the above article, they cite 200,000 jobs lost in 2 years and I state it is closer to 15,000 jobs since 2011.  My figures are strictly workers in mines, while some of the larger coal mining companies have gone out of business causing much larger job loss.

Hopefully, the employees with jobs less connected to the coal industry, can find other opportunities. Maybe in the booming solar industry- who knows

Stay tuned,

Dave