In an attempt to prop up dirty energy, the Trump administration has moved forward with a proposal to bail out the coal mining industry, which mandates rolling back environmental regulations and intervening heavily in the US electricity market. The decision comes after pressure from companies like FirstEnergy, an Ohio-based utility giant, which has requested multiple federal bailouts for its uneconomical coal and nuclear power plants. Other companies that stand to gain from the decision have met a welcome audience with the administration and former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
This proposal arrives in the wake of many drastic measures that have set a precedent for the administration’s sentiment towards climate change. Embracing isolationist views in the White House, President Trump withdrew the United States from the international Paris Climate Accord on June 1, 2017, and has continued his eradication of environmental protection measures by working to repeal the Clean Power Plan. A landmark policy from Obama’s era, the C.P.P. was the only unifying action aimed at combating global warming through safe-guards on the domestic energy market.
Despite these measures, many coal-based energy providers are facing bankruptcy. This is, in part, due to competition from cheap natural gas, but coal’s market share has dropped to 30% in the last 8 years which many are attributing to the rapid rise of solar and wind energy. Wind and solar alternatives are even surfacing as some of the most affordable options for consumers. Clean Energy Progress, a public resource that analyzes the economic impact of renewable energy, has estimated that wind and solar have seen noteworthy drops in cost over the past decade – 66 and 85 percent respectively, making renewable energy cheaper than coal and natural gas in a number of markets. As a result of these emerging cost options, a number of utility giants, like Xcel Energy, are retiring coal for a variety of sustainable energy sources. This helps to explain why clean energy investments from the private sector, including Apple, Walmart, and IKEA, have reached over $1.6 trillion.
In light of this progress, it appears that President Trump’s undertakings are merely attempts to postpone the inevitable. His misguided policies that move to restore dirty energy providers are far from long term solutions to domestic energy production, and are at odds with his rationale since they work to disrupt the competitive electricity market, which is designed to foster newer and cheaper sources of generation. Many are calling for this administration to embrace the urgent need for sustainable energy production, which would drastically reduce environmental toxins and global warming output, while fostering job creation and lowering residential energy prices. It’s time for our leadership to stop promoting shortsighted policies that degrade our economy and environment, and start protecting our planet for future generations.