By Grant Smith, National News Writer
On March 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, taking formal aim at President Obama’s climate change initiatives for the first time since assuming office two months ago. According to the Washington Post, the order instructs federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing carbon emissions in the United States, including the Clean Power Plan of 2014.
“Our administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” Trump said, flanked onstage by Vice President Pence, more than a dozen coal miners, and three cabinet members. “We’re ending the theft of American prosperity, and rebuilding our beloved country.”
The order all but assures that the United States will not meet its obligations under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the landmark accord that committed nearly every country to reducing climate-warming emissions such as carbon and methane. The overarching target of the Paris Agreement is to keep the planet from warming an additional 3.6 degrees, the point at which scientists and climate experts have agreed will permanently lock the planet into a future of severe droughts, rising sea levels and floods, and food shortages.
The BBC reports that climate diplomats around the globe have mobilized to fill the gap left by the world’s second-biggest polluter leaving the agreement. “There are countless countries ready to step up and deliver on their climate promises and take advantage of Trump’s short-termism to reap the benefits of the transition to the low-carbon economy,” said the chief French negotiator from 2015, Laurence Tubiana.
President Trump however has decided to focus on the effect the order might have on coal mining jobs, “c’mon fellas. You know what this is? You know what this says?” Trump was quoted by the New York Times saying to the coal miners present. “You’re going back to work.”
Yet, there has been debate on whether or not President Trump’s efforts to strengthen the fossil fuel industry will be able to ameliorate the suffering of coal country. While coal producers have lauded the order, market forces and state initiatives will continue to elevate coal’s rivals, especially natural gas and renewable energy.
Coal executives themselves have stated that regulatory relief will restore ten percent of their market share at most, not nearly enough to restore the tens of thousands of coal jobs that have been lost. Economic realities and technological advances have produced a frenzy of oil and natural gas drilling in recent years, two energy sources that are both more efficient and cheaper than coal. Furthermore, these same market forces have shifted coal extraction from traditional labor-intensive tunneling methods toward mountaintop removal mining that requires much fewer workers.
United States coal jobs currently sit at about 75,000 according to the New York Times and when pressed for a projection of how many jobs the coal industry could expect because of the order a senior administration official was not able to provide an answer. Yet, proponents of the order such as Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe maintain that the policy will boost the economy. “This order is a clear sign to the country that Trump is serious about unleashing this country’s energy dominance,” Inhofe’s office said in a statement.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 4th print edition.
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