How Obama destroyed all those coal jobs

He didn’t.  Handy chart via David Roberts (coal and parenting in one day– what a guy):

coal mining employment

And, since Economists are good at analyzing stuff like this, how much can we blame Obama’s regulations?

Exactly what has waged war on coal, and how much

So what’s responsible for this wreckage? Houser et al. set out to put some numbers on it.

They did so by comparing coal’s actual performance with 2006 Energy Information Administration projections, corrected for the decline in overall demand (which the EIA, like everyone else, completely failed to anticipate). Then they did the same for natural gas and renewables. Finally, they “explored how each fuel’s share of total interconnect-level generation varied in 2016 from what the EIA had projected.”

Comparing projections with actual performance, they were able to quantify how much of coal’s projected market share was eaten up by competitors (and other forces). Here are the culprits, the leading brigades in the “war on coal,” listed by size:

  1. Natural gas: 49 percent
  2. Lower-than-expected demand: 26 percent
  3. Renewable energy: 18 percent
  4. Obama regulations: 3 to 5 percent

The impact of regulations was calculated somewhat differently, based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s projected costs, which historically have tended to be much lower than industry’s projections but much higher than actual after-the-fact costs. And the researchers modeled what would happen if Obama’s most significant regulations simply vanished. In reality, they won’t vanish; they will probably just be weakened after months or years of rulemaking and legal challenge.

So 5 percent should be considered an unrealistically high upper bound for the impact of Obama’s regs. (There’s much discussion of methodological challenges in the report.)

What’s clear is that the “war on coal” was led by cheap, fracked natural gas. Renewables and efficiency played vital supporting roles. Obama’s regulations were, in comparison, a peashooter. [emphasis mine]

But don’t tell the miners or our president.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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