July 2, 2017 - Americans can enjoy hundreds of years of reasonably priced, reliable electricity if coal is added back into the nation’s energy mix. During his election campaign and earlier this year, President Donald Trump pledged to do just that.
He is working energetically to win half the battle on that. He is rolling back illogical Obama-administration rules that were intended to destroy the coal industry. He has revealed the United States will not go along with the Paris Accords on climate change.
But the president seems to have declared “mission abandoned” on the other, crucial, half of the equation.
Unless “clean coal” technology is improved, there is little chance utilities will build new coal-fired power plants. They have been closing them by the dozens. The trend is toward generating stations fueled by natural gas, which is both cheap and more environmentally acceptable.
It is not too much to say that the electric utility industry no longer has an interest in coal. Unless that is revived with better, more economical technology to lessen emissions of carbon and other pollutants, the mining industry faces continuing decline.
That would be a tragedy for West Virginians, Ohioans and others in the Appalachian states who for generations have been able to rely on a coal economy.
But it also would be a disaster for tens of millions of Americans — whose electric bills already are climbing because of the Obama administration’s war on coal and affordable power.
In March, as he signed an executive order killing one of his predecessor’s anti-coal initiatives, Trump promised, “We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal.”
Then his proposed federal budget was released. It slashes federal funding for clean coal technology — even beyond what Obama did to gut the program.
Work on clean coal technology is centered in the Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy Research and Development arm. Trump’s budget would cut FERD funding by 55 percent.
In dollar terms, an idea of the devastation can be gained by a look at two important programs: Trump would cut funding for carbon capture work, now at $101 million, down to $16 million. Support for carbon storage research, now $106 million, would be slashed to $16 million.
There has been enormous controversy over Trump’s budget proposal, much of it deserved. Clearly, for the good of the entire nation, not just mining states, the clean coal funding section should be declared dead on arrival.