Yesterday in Washington. I just want to quote the President on this:
We have ENDED the war on American Energy – and we have ENDED the War on CLEAN COAL. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.
Here’s a wholly unbiased reaction to the whole thing:
And here’s one of our serious newspapers doing some almost-real-time fact-checking. (I was up for this part and ended up listening in for a few minutes on The Guardian’s live feed. The sadness of my life need not detain anyone else.)
Fact check: coal, energy and cars
We have ended the war on American energy — and we have ended the war on clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.
Thanks to a natural gas boom over the last 15 years, the US has become a global energy power to rival oil states around the world. This success of natural gas – cheaper, more accessible and comparatively cleaner than coal – has marginalized the coal industry, limiting Trump’s efforts to save the industry.
As automation has spread across many US industries, coal jobs and production declined for decades, collapsing 33% from 2011 to 2016, according to studies by Columbia University and the Department of Energy, largely due to competition from natural gas and a shift away from coal in Asia.
Trump has tried, however, to resurrect coal’s fading fortunes. With Republicans in Congress he rescinded a rule that tried to keep coal mining waste out of waterways; he ordered a revocation of Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which put strict new regulations on mining and favored renewable energies; and he lifted a ban on mining leases on federal land. And in 2017, coal exports hugely increased compared to 2016, according to the Energy Information Association. Still, there has only been about 1% growth in coal jobs over the last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The phrase “clean coal,” coined by the coal industry and briefly taken up by Obama, is itself controversial. The term applies not to any coal itself but power plants that remove heavy metal pollutants in the burning process and bury carbon emissions in the earth. Even such “clean” coal-fired plants still emit large levels of pollutants, however.
In Detroit, I halted government mandates that crippled America’s autoworkers — so we can get the Motor City revving its engines once again.
Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013, but the US auto industry was one of the first American sectors to bounce back from the 2008 financial crisis, enough so that Barak Obama was touting its revival in 2010.
Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States — something we have not seen for decades. Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan; Toyota and Mazda are opening up a plant in Alabama. Soon, plants will be opening up all over the country. This is all news Americans are unaccustomed to hearing — for many years, companies and jobs were only leaving us.
Chrysler is not moving any plant from Mexico; it is keeping the Mexican factory and investing in a Michigan one. Toyota-Mazda have planned for a $1.6bn factory in Alabama, to open in several years. Several of the plans Trump is touting have been in development for several years and the US has steadily increased jobs since 2010, according to the same Bureau of Labor Statistics figures the president earlier cited.
How fair is all that?
Isn’t it remarkable that we have a US President who speaks this way about energy and about coal? That surely is unprecedented since 1988? And how does it fit with a tweet from a UK climate sceptic this month that I drew attention to recently?
What should we be saying about clean coal? And everything else climate- or energy-related said by POTUS last night? (I may have missed vast swathes. I quickly moved onto other things.)
This is my first post not called “Ongoing ignorance of experts n” for quite a while. My ignorance of what matters seems to grow. All the questions therefore are genuine ones.