Trump boosts coal as China takes the lead on climate change

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The executive order effectively ends USA efforts to comply with the goals of a 2015 Paris climate agreement signed by almost every nation.

So it was little surprise when the federal government reported this week that USA coal use fell 9 percent in 2016, even as Americans consumed more energy overall.

The report quoted Arch spokeswoman Logan Bonacorsi, who praised the administration for reconsidering former President Obama's climate change regulations for power plants and focusing instead on "driving progress on advanced, low-emissions fossil fuel technologies that will provide far greater benefits over time".

Last year, the Energy Information Administration published a report that clearly showed the natural gas industry displacing coal: Over the past 60 years, the annual share of coal has slowly dropped from almost 60 percent of the total U.S. electricity generation to 33 percent, while natural gas has climbed up from about 10 percent to 32 percent (Forbes, "Don't Blame Renewable Energy for Dying U.S. Coal Industry", 03.18.2016).

Meanwhile, big investors aligned with the global push to fight climate change - such as the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund - have been pressuring US utilities in which they own stakes to cut coal use. "And if I'm not going to build new ones, eventually there won't be any".

President Donald Trump had been very vocal about his views on climate change.

Electricity generated using coal has always been America's largest single source of pollution causing climate change.

Ebell and other conservatives believe Trump should keep that promise by sending it to be voted down in the Senate. The State Department April 4 confirmed yet another missile test-fire by North Korea earlier in the day-just one day before the Trump-Xi summit-drawing a brusque response from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It was designed as a primary strategy in US efforts to fight global climate change.

So what does the USA coal industry want? Shipments of US metallurgical coal, used in the production of steel, have recently shown up in China following a two-year hiatus - in part to offset banned shipments from North Korea and temporary delays from cyclone-hit Australian producers. The U.S. used more natural gas and renewables past year than ever before, while oil use and even nuclear power were on the rise, too.

The plan would have closed hundreds of power plants, and stopped the construction of new plants, replacing them with wind and solar farms. These coal companies see the administration steering the worldwide community toward policies that protect the fossil fuel sector.

Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, acknowledged Trump's efforts would not return the coal industry to its "glory days", but offered some hope.

One of those is Xcel Energy, one of the Midwest's largest utilities, which says it has retired 25 percent of all the coal-fired power plants it operated in 2005. It was the first to set a peaking goal, in other words, that emissions would reach a peak and then turn around and start to be reduced.

Several utilities also cited falling costs for wind and solar power, which is now often as cheap as coal or natural gas, thanks in part to government subsidies for renewable energy.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt called the Paris agreement a "bad deal".

Schneiderman's office said Trump's actions violate "both the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act and Administrative Procedures Act" by preventing required energy efficiency standards for a range of consumer products such as ceiling fans by failing to publish them in the Federal Register.

Another eight companies, including Southern Co (SO.N) and NorthWestern Corp (NWE.N), are "under observation" by the fund.

Cloud Peak and Peabody officials confirmed the discussions.

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