Skynet is coming– for our coal

Damn the stupid rubes who fall for this Donald Trump stuff.  We’re going to Make America Great Again by investing in a fuel source that is basically no longer economically competitive and is super polluting  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  Here’s the NYT:

Mr. Trump advertised the moves as a way to decrease the nation’s dependence on imported fuels and revive the flagging coal industry.

“We’re ending the theft of American prosperity and reviving our beloved economy,” Mr. Trump said. “The miners told me about the attacks on their jobs. I made them this promise. We will put our miners back to work.”

But energy economists say the order falls short of both of those goals — in part because the United States already largely relies on domestic sources for the coal and natural gas that fires most of the nation’s power plants.

“We don’t import coal,” said Robert N. Stavins, an energy economist at Harvard University. “So in terms of the Clean Power Plan, this has nothing to do with so-called energy independence whatsoever.”

Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, said in an interview on ABC News on Sunday that the order will help the United States “be both pro-jobs and pro-environment.”

Oh, God, among other things I just love how Pruitt calls this pro-environment.  Damn, Orwell had nothing on these guys.  Oh, and this:

But coal miners should not assume their jobs will return if Mr. Trump’s regulations take effect.

The new order would mean that older coal plants that had been marked for closing would probably stay open for a few years longer, extending the demand for coal, said Robert W. Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming.

But even so, “the mines that are staying open are using more mechanization,” he said.

“They’re not hiring people,” he continued.

“So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs,” he added.

Anyway, it all nicely boils down to this:

And though the percentage of coal mining jobs dropped sharply, economists said that was not driven by the Clean Power Plan. Rather, they blamed two key forces: an increase in the production of natural gas, which is a cheaper, cleaner-burning alternative to coal, and an increase in automation, which allowed coal companies to produce more fuel with fewer employees. The rollback of Mr. Obama’s regulations will not change either of those forces, economists say.

But, hey, who cares what stupid economists think they know, when Trump can fix it!  And MAGA.

As my favorite tweet on election night said (can’t find it), that robot is not giving you your job back.  We need to be smart about addressing this as a society.  Pretending that it’s not a real dynamic gets us nowhere.  Of course, this current administration pretends about pretty much everything.  Relatedly, nice Upshot piece on how robots are winning the race for American jobs.

And a good take on just how dumb this is from Chait:

To see the vacuousness of Trump’s proposal, you don’t need to go any farther than its name: the Energy Independence Executive Order. It would make sense if Trump were proposing to replace imported energy with domestic sources. But the entire goal of Trump’s panoply of executive orders — enabling more oil and gas development and weakening regulations on carbon emissions — is to prioritize dirty domestic energy sources (oil and coal) over clean domestic energy sources (natural gas, wind and solar). Whatever reasons Trump may have to favor carbon-intensive energy sources over cleaner ones, “energy independence” has literally nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Image result for robot coal

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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