Opinion

Trump’s Half-Measures Won’t Save the Coal Industry

By Paul H. Tice

Paul H. Tice

Absent stronger federal leadership, U.S. energy policy will soon become a hodgepodge of state climate-change initiatives, subject to fluctuation with every local election and administrative ruling, with the economic impact felt by the entire country.

Raucous West Virginia rallies notwithstanding, President Trump has thus far failed to deliver on his campaign promise to resuscitate the coal industry. This is mainly for lack of political will in his administration to address the climate-change elephant in the room. While Mr. Trump has rolled back key components of the Obama anticoal agenda such as the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan, these moves were part of a broader deregulatory push, with no discussion of whether addressing climate change is a worthy policy goal overall.

But actions that at first might have seemed like careful first steps of rolling back the Obama climate agenda have proved to be mere half-measures. The Affordable Clean Energy rule, proposed last month by the Environmental Protection Agency, made clear that the Trump administration has officially conceded the argument over man-made global warming and the need to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. This capitulation will seal the fate of the domestic coal industry over the coming years and have broad negative implications for U.S. energy policy over the longer term.

Under the Affordable Clean Energy rule, the EPA will allow states to set their own emissions standards for coal-fired power plants, in line with federal guidance toward heat-rate efficiency improvements and based on a range of alternative technologies. Such a state-based approach would be positive for the coal industry if the Clean Power Plan and similar regulations had merely been anomalous examples of federal overreach. They weren’t. Rather, President Obama’s war on coal was the extension of an equally aggressive climate-change-driven regulatory campaign at the state level.

Read the full The Wall Street Journal article.
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Paul Tice is an Adjunct Professor of Finance at NYU Stern.