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Trump Won’t Bring Back Coal Jobs; Focus on Wind Power Instead!

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].

Get your head out of our past, Donald. Wind power and other renewables and efficiency are America’s energy (and jobs) future!


  1. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-28 11:02

    Most utilities are planning to incorporate more natural gas, energy efficiency measures, and more renewables in their near-term planning (2025-2030). Particularly wind at the moment. Not as much solar, but I think it depends where you are.

    I wouldn’t expect to see much new nuclear until the smaller ones are licensed, but I would expect a hard push to keep the existing ones operating as long as possible. They’re paid for, have low fuel costs, and generate no carbon emissions. Carbon goes up when they go away.

  2. jerry 2017-04-28 11:52

    What is not a shock is that republican cannot govern. We will stumble along with the fake government in Washington until it looks just like Pierre. Then we elect Democrats to clean up the failures until the next time. In South Dakota, government cannot figure out the basic concept of air flow. Republican understand their hot air without problems, but they cannot grasp that air flow can be channeled and used to generate power. They look in amazement at the border with Minnesota and wonder just how in the hell those Minnesotans can harness wind energy but not themselves.

    In the meantime, lets put some Democrats in Pierre that understand how to run something with success and without corruption. Some guys and gals that understand history and life in rural areas of the days of windchargers, what a concept! History repeating.

  3. Roger Elgersma 2017-04-28 12:52

    So which way did the wind blow the Donald’s hair this time. His campaign promise of helping the coal miners resulted in he helped the coal companies but not the miners. The deals he made behind the scenes is ruling and his voters are in limbo. We have no idea how many people he owes from his secret deals.

  4. mike from iowa 2017-04-28 13:59

    Speaking of wind I see an awful lot of Black Hills Energy vehicles around NW iowa. Maybe they escaped the wingnut grip of gubmint and moved to where the air ain’t fresh necessarily but is available to be monopolized.

  5. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-28 14:48

    Annual nuclear power investment of $80 billion needed to meet climate change goals: IAEA

    “Dohee Hahn told a nuclear industry conference that between 10 and 20 reactors will need to be built every year through 2030, if the global temperature rise is to be held within 2 degrees.”

    I guess one big question is whether American companies and American workers will be building these reactors that the rest of the world is demanding.

    The other is how serious the world will actually be in delivering the amount of carbon-free power that people demand, when they demand it.

  6. Douglas Wiken 2017-04-28 15:59

    No nuclear needs to be built if the US has a program at a level of the Manhattan project or the NASA moon programs to shift to wind, solar, and improved hydro systems. Westinghouse has taken out bankruptcy because huge nuclear systems utilizing Uranium are not selling. The disasters in Japan and Chernobyl may explain part of Westinghouse problems. My own devil theory on this is that Westinghouse twisted government into supporting their expensive and complex systems rather than shifting to Thorium salt systems.

    I just got an e-mail from PBS indicating that their programs on the Chernobyl MegaTomb, wild weather, etc are available via ROKU and the PBS channel available on those approximately $50 USB sticks. If you are at all interested in engineering and technology, it is worth viewing that NOVA program if it is re-broadcast over air or via the ROKU stick.

  7. MC 2017-04-28 17:27

    I know I have mentioned this before.

    I vote for option D) All of the above.

    We need to develop our natural resources, which includes oil, natural gas, coal etc. We know there is a finite supply. it is what we currently have. All we have to do to go get it.

    We need to conserve what we do have. That means reduce, reuse, and recycle. It also means taking a stroll to the local store, rather than drive. We also need to update our infrastructure to support these new initiatives. Some Examples include: Improve rail service, update the power grid to name a few.

    Finally, we need to develop new technologies, new power sources, renewable energy. Including Wind, Solar, Ethanol, Hyperloop train, etc.

    There is no single answer here. We need all options on the table.
    ‘nuff said

  8. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-28 17:38

    All Westinghouse means is that nuclear needs to be built differently to address the upfront costs of construction and licensing and the on-going costs of regulation or maintenance.

    The Russian reactor at Chernobyl would NOT have been approved by the NRC.

    When water expands it is less dense, so fewer collisions with neutrons occur, and the fission rate decreases. When water cools it is more dense, so more collisions with neutrons occur, and the fission rate increases.

    So as long as you do not lose coolant with a water-based reactor, and you keep removing the heat, the power levels will simply oscillate about the mean if you walk away. Chernobyl’s primary flaw generated an uncontrolled exponential power increase instead (i.e. instead of sines and cosines).

    I watched the PBS documentary on the Chernobyl remediation situation. Workers are safe enough 300 yards from the reactor to work on the shell that will be rolled over the reactor complex. They will try to remove the reactor piece by piece, and the shell would contain any plumes that result from walls falling down, etc.

  9. mike from iowa 2017-04-28 17:45

    There is no single answer here. We need all options on the table.
    ‘nuff said

    There is a single answer-STOP giving taxcuts to the wealthy! Then we would have revenues to do what need be done.

  10. grudznick 2017-04-28 17:54

    Mr. Mike, everybody should be taxed the same. You make $100 to every $1 I make, but we should both pay the same percentage of income tax and the same percentage of sales tax. It is only fair.

  11. mike from iowa 2017-04-28 18:59

    Grudz are you saying the wealthy should pay payroll taxes the same as everyone else? No matter how much money one earns it is not taxed after $120,000.00. Below that every penny is taxed for SS and Medicare.

  12. barry freed 2017-04-29 07:42

    A Free Market with Net Metering is the answer. Wind is only one part.

    In Colorado, BHP has to pay what they charge, and the opportunities to generate electricity are limitless and worth the effort. In South Dakota, they pay only wholesale, thanks to the very accommodating PUC. The 10 cent per kilowatt difference in wholesale/retail is all the difference in the World when it comes to the bottom line.

    In Colorado, not South Dakota, one could, with almost no capital start a business picking up dog poo. Seal it in 55 gallon drums, let it ferment, and after filtering with lime and iron filings, run a generator with the Natural Gas. Thereby putting power into the Grid we bought, paid for, and own.

    Make it pay for us as well as it pays for the Congress and PUC owning BHP, and people will utilize what they can get for free: wind, sun, water, poo, or whatever, to produce power.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-04-29 08:09

    “All of the above” is an excuse to keep the fossil fuel corporations making money as fast as possible.

    We have resources that we can’t deplete: wind, sunshine, flowing water, tidal forces. We should focus on using them as much as possible.

    We have resources that are technically finite but would take so long to deplete that we probably don’t need to figure their depletion into any practical plans: geothermal, fission.

    We have resources that are really hard to use but would be make energy so long-lastingly cheap and plentiful that it’s worth investing big in figuring out how to use them: all those hydrogen molecules that we could fuse into helium and starship drives.

    We have resources that are clearly finite, possibly depletable within our lifetimes and that we should thus conserve as much as possible for emergency situations when other alternatives are insufficient: oil, coal, natural gas.

    “All of the above” should still set priorities, in the order above. Rely on infinite energy sources as much as possible. Invest in making more long-lasting sources available. Use finite resources as a last resort.

  14. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-29 12:52

    Access to health care does not mean that the health care you actually need will be delivered when you need it. Access to “free energy” does not mean that all of your energy demands will be met by those sources whenever you demand energy.

    The conversion of that energy into electricity, the transmission of that electricity to the consumer, the replacement of “free energy” when it is not available or not enough, and the final disposal in landfills are all not free.

  15. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-29 18:02

    I think you should be asking “Do we want Russia to be the predominant manufacturer of nuclear power plants moving forward” or “should other nations follow the same safety and security rules as the United States does with respect to nuclear energy”…unintended consequences of opposing nuclear in the U.S.

    Another unintended consequence is that we have not been building new nuclear power plants to replace the old ones. Westinghouse is showing us that we are out of practice, and cost overruns and delays are therefore not a surprise. Carbon fans rejoice, more carbon will be emitted as a result.

  16. Adam 2017-04-30 00:44

    I don’t want Trump or Republicans in charge of any nuclear policy. I don’t trust what they’ll do to the NRC, ASLB or EPA in terms of neutering mining regulations, nor do I trust their hands on national uranium reserves, nor anything our President has ever said. So, as long as Idiocracy is our official form of government, nuclear everything should be off the table.

  17. Robert McTaggart 2017-04-30 13:10

    It sounds like they are in favor of keeping the current fleet operating, which would maintain jobs, local/state taxes, and clean energy, and have been interested in addressing waste management issues.

    For the latter I think they have an interest in Yucca Mountain for permanent storage…although salt would be better and cheaper to dig through than volcanic tuff, and they would avoid re-opening those Yucca Mountain issues in Nevada.

    They will have more success in the area of temporary storage, namely to remove wastes from shutdown nuclear plants that have nowhere to go today. They also have been working to bolster non-proliferation efforts.

  18. mike from iowa 2017-04-30 14:30

    Once and for all them there coal jobs ain’t coming back and their loss has virtually noting to do with environmental regs.

    Another thing, Rance Pre-pus claims Drumpf is taking a look at revising libel laws. Apparently he does not mind getting sued for lying about the press and Dems and, hell, everyone in the entire world.

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