March 5, 2019 - President Donald Trump has promised to stick up for the coal industry, winning fans in key states that helped put him in the White House.
But despite his efforts, as CNN reported this week, market forces have led more coal-fired plants to closed under Trump in his first term than in former President Barack Obama’s first term.
Recent polling suggests more Americans want to cut down on coal usage, with even Republicans divided on the issue.
In a Pew Research survey from April 2018, two-thirds of Americans said they think developing alternative sources such as wind, solar and hydrogen technology should be the priority over only 22% who thought expanding exploration and production of oil, coal, and natural gas should be the priority. That’s the largest number who wanted to develop alternative sources since Pew began tracking the question in 2011.
Republicans have fluctuated on the question, but in January 2017, they were closely divided. Forty-five percent of Republicans said that year they would prefer developing alternative sources and 44% wanted to stick to coal.
When the April Pew poll asked about sources of energy individually, however, only 37% of Americans favored expanding coal mining as a source of energy in the country, including only one-in-five Democrats and three-in-five Republicans. While that’s a majority of Republicans, more were in favor of other sources of energy such as solar panel farms (89% overall favor, 84% of Republicans) and wind turbine farms (85% overall favor, 79% of Republicans).
Again, Republicans were split in a Gallup poll taken in March 2018. When asked if the US should emphasize production of more oil, gas, and coal supplies or emphasize more conservation by consumers of existing energy supplies, 47% of Republicans reported they wanted to emphasize production and the exact same said they wanted to emphasize conservation. Around three-quarters of Democrats and 63% overall said they wanted to emphasize conservation.
That’s pretty high (the second highest since Gallup started tracking the question in 2001), but there’s been almost a majority every year who preferred to emphasize conservation, except in May 2001 and March 2011, when 47% and 48%, respectively, said they preferred conservation of resources over production of oil, coal, and gas. Even still, a plurality wanted to conserve current resources.
A Quinnipiac poll taken in April, 2017 (a little dated, but still a useful reference point), found that over half (56%) wanted the US to discourage the use of coal while only around a third wanted to encourage it.