Trump’s “plan” to bring back coal jobs by rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations is woefully misguided:
If you’ve not been paying attention, coal has been taking a tumble recently. In America, its use fell by 30 percent between 2011 and 2016. The new analysis of what accounts for that slump makes for interesting reading: the Columbia team attributes around half of coal’s decline to the affordability of natural gas, 26 percent to reduced electricity demand, and 18 percent to surging renewables.
The Trump administration has strenuously argued that President Obama introduced rules that placed unnecessary burdens on the burning of coal. The study does indeed identify 10 regulations introduced under the Obama administration—from the notorious Clean Power Plan to more obscure Effluent Guidelines—that will have dampened the sector. But it also finds that they would account for just a 3.5 percent decline in coal. And that’s an upper estimate that assumes all 10 rules had an additive effect on the industry [Jamie Condliffe, “Here’s Why Trump’s Plan to Save the Coal Industry is Doomed,” MIT Technology Review, 2017.04.27].
Meanwhile, local wind company Prevailing Winds board member Erik Johnson says his industry is on the upswing:
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are now 374,000 American jobs in solar energy and 102,000 jobs in wind energy across the country. For comparison, 160,000 Americans currently work in coal, 360,000 in natural gas and 515,000 in oil.
If you look at employment on a per capita basis, North Dakota and South Dakota surprisingly come out on top for jobs in wind. In North Dakota, 4.3 out of every 1,000 jobs are in wind energy and South Dakota has 3.6 out of every 1,000 jobs in wind energy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine service technician is the fastest growing job in the U.S., with median pay of $51,000 per year, so we could push our jobs number much higher in the next few years, with just the projects that are currently proposed [Erik Johnson, “Wind Benefits Are Real and Growing,” letter to the editor, that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.04.27].