Environment

Canada Wants to End Coal Reliance, While Trump Promises to Revive Industry

November 21st 2016

By:
Willie Burnley Jr.

On Monday, Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna pledged that the nation would virtually eliminate its use of coal-powered electricity by 2030. If accomplished, the plan would increase Canada’s non-carbon emitting electricity from 80 percent to 90 percent.

At the same time, below Canada’s southern border, President-elect Donald Trump has promised to bring back coal jobs and bolster the industry through cutting energy regulations aimed at lowering the United State’s carbon emissions.

coal

Canada’s latest move would help the country achieve the overall emission reduction it agreed to in the Paris Climate Accord, which its Parliament ratified last month. Trump, in contrast, has promised to exit that agreement.

If followed through, the President-elect’s efforts would be a reversal of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would substitute some coal-based power plants with renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

Coal miners represent one facet of the predominantly white, rural, working-class voters that surged on Election Day to bring Trump an electoral victory. His opponent, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was seen as an opponent of the industry after she said that her plans to transition onto cleaner energy sources would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Despite Trump’s promise to bring coal jobs back through de-regulation, industry experts say they have little hope for a revival.

“Generally, market forces rule what happens in energy development and solar and wind [energy] are far cheaper than coal,” Katherine Hamilton said, a partner at 38 North Solutions, a clean energy consulting firm.

wind power

Hamilton said in a phone interview that the coal industry was not “cost-effective” and implied that there was little public policy could do about the industry’s trajectory. Though coal workers may be better served by trying to get work in renewable energy, clean energy sources were not putting them out of work, she said:

“The [coal] industry has not been cost-effective and has not been functional and that’s mostly because of natural gas prices. That has nothing to do with clean energy at all.”

Hamilton is not the only expert to point this out. Jeff McMahon, who covers the energy industry for Forbes, wrote that the only way that the president-elect would be able to keep his campaign promise would be to devise a plan to “raise the price of natural gas” and thereby undercut the case for moving away from coal.