Yesterday's West Virginia Record headlined McKinley's words praising President Trump's signing of an executive order rolling back the regulating of carbon emissions. The article also highlights yet another stream of promises from the president:
We're going to have clean coal, really clean coal. With today's executive action, I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations. And by the way, regulations not only in this industry but in every industry. We're doing them by the thousands, every industry. We're going to have safety, we're going to have clean water, we're going to have clean air, but so many are unnecessary and so many are job-killing. We're getting rid of the bad ones.
Despite the Trump promises to McKinley and West Virginia miners, most analysis suggested that Trump's actions won't make much difference. Here a sample of headlines from articles that followed the president's action:
The New York Times:
Coal Mining Jobs Trump Would Bring Back No Longer Exist
The Los Angeles Times
Trump’s attack on environmental laws won’t save coal miners’ jobs
Moneyline from CBS News:
Why Trump's Executive Order on Climate Change Won't Help Coal Miners
Trump’s Pro-Coal Orders Are Doomed to Fail
If you google "trump executive order coal" under "news" you will find many more articles -- most of which are at least as pessimistic about the future of coal. The few that express any optimism tend to be from the coal regions of the United States.
Some other articles of note:
The New York Times' Paul Krugman has written about the future of coal (and West Virginia) on a number of occasions. His most recent post gives us another look at coal mining and West Virginia:
Coal Country Is a State of Mind
Once again he compares health care and coal mining jobs in the state:
So coal-mining jobs have been disappearing for a long time. Even in West Virginia, the most coal-oriented state, it has been a quarter century since they accounted for as much as 5 percent of total employment.
What, then, do West Virginians actually do for a living these days? Well, many of them work in health care: Almost one in six workers is employed in the category “health care and social assistance.”
Oh, and where does the money for those health care jobs come from? Actually, a lot of it comes from Washington.
And he also notes what Trump's policies may do to the state:
Now think about what Trumpism means for a state like this. Killing environmental rules might bring back a few mining jobs, but not many, and mining isn’t really central to the economy in any case. Meanwhile, the Trump administration and its allies just tried to replace the Affordable Care Act. If they had succeeded, the effect would have been catastrophic for West Virginia, slashing Medicaid and sending insurance premiums for lower-income, older residents soaring. . . .
And aside from the devastating effect on coverage, think about how the Republican assault on Obamacare would have affected the health sector that now employs so many West Virginians. It’s almost certain that the job losses from Trumpcare cuts would have greatly exceeded any possible gains in coal.
Krugman then returns to a point that he has made previously:
“Coal country” residents weren’t voting to preserve what they have, or had until recently; they were voting on behalf of a story their region tells about itself, a story that hasn’t been true for a generation or more.
Their Trump votes weren’t even about the region’s interests; they were about cultural symbolism.
Now, regional cultures that invoke a long-gone past are hardly unique to Appalachia; think of Texans wearing 10-gallon hats and cowboy boots as they stroll through air-conditioned malls. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
But when it comes to energy and environmental policy, we’re not talking about mere cultural affectations. Going backward on the environment will sicken and kill thousands in the near future; over the longer term, failing to act on climate change could, all too plausibly, lead to civilizational collapse.
So it’s incredible, and terrifying, to think that we may really be about to do all of that because Donald Trump successfully pandered to cultural nostalgia, to a longing for a vanished past when men were men and miners dug deep.
It's Krugman doing what I think he does best -- combining politics, culture and economics.
On jobs and economic impact, I would also note from the Washington Post:
The entire coal industry employs fewer people than Arby’s
And despite the flippant but accurate title, the article does deal with the impact of those lost jobs:
The point isn't that coal jobs don't matter — they matter to the people who have them and to the communities they support, especially as they typically pay far more than do jobs in the retail and service industries. But if you're looking to make a meaningful increase in the number of jobs available to U.S. workers, bringing back coal jobs isn't going to do it.
The article presents a slightly different perspective than most.