Trump EPA to strike blow against climate rules, reports say

Federico Mansilla
Diciembre 6, 2018

Americans are consuming less coal in 2018 than at any time since Jimmy Carter's presidency, a federal report said Tuesday, as cheap natural gas and other rival sources of energy frustrate the Trump administration's pledges to revive the US coal industry.

Yet the effort is unlikely to bring about a coal power renaissance in the USA, as utilities increasingly shift to cheap, cleaner burning natural gas and zero-emission renewables.

News of the expected announcement coincides with a federal report showing that consumption of coal in the US has plummeted to its lowest levels since 1979. Tougher pollution rules also have compelled some older, dirtier-burning coal plants to close rather than upgrade their equipment to trap more harmful coal emissions.

Trump has attempted to help the coal industry through policy efforts. The shale boom created a glut of cheap natural gas in America, and the costs to deploy wind and solar continue to plunge.

"Coal use is at its lowest level in almost four decades and the Trump administration can't stop this country from continuing to move beyond coal", said Mary Anne Hitt, senior director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. They often referred to it as a "war on coal". Since 2010, power plant owners have either retired or announced plans to retire at least 630 coal plants in 43 states - almost 40 percent of the US coal fleet, according to data by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

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At a rally in West Virginia last summer, Trump declared, "The coal industry is back".

Pizarchik, now a consultant on water quality and reforestation, said lower prices for natural gas and renewables will continue to drive down demand for coal, despite deregulation efforts by the Trump administration. "The decline in coal-fired capacity is expected to further reduce coal consumption: EIA's latest Short-Term Energy Outlook expects power sector coal consumption to fall 4 percent in 2018 and 8 percent in 2019".

Ironically, the new tax law approved by the Republican-controlled Congress has encouraged coal plants to close, as utilities use a provision that allows them to accelerate depreciation costs for closing plants, he said.

National gas production in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia has jumped from 2 percent of the nation's total in 2008 to 27 percent past year, Perry said.

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