President Donald Trump’s coal push is losing power as America goes green. An administration plan to subsidize solid fuels has stirred a backlash from industry, which fears it will distort power prices. Meanwhile U.S. carbon emissions from coal fell at a record pace in 2015. Environmental and economic forces are conspiring against the president’s campaign pledge.
In September, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission adopt new grid rules that would effectively subsidize coal- and nuclear-powered electricity producers. The feedback has been strongly negative. Respondents ranging from grid operators to oil and gas trade groups to Brooklyn-based arts and crafts website Etsy have opposed the plan. The commission is supposed to take a decision by Dec. 11, but on Tuesday Chairman Neil Chatterjee told an industry publication the commission might order a new round of study to ensure that whatever decision it takes can stand up to legal scrutiny.
Coal’s future may not brighten even if FERC adopts Perry’s plan. On Monday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said coal emissions fell by a record amount in 2015. There were big declines in states that were key to Trump’s election victory, including Ohio and Pennsylvania. And the ultimate irony came in Perry’s home state of Texas, which recorded the largest drop and enjoyed a surge in wind power.