Democracy challenged: Donald Trump’s war on renewable energy

“Democracy Challenged” is a political column which brings to the forefront issues in American politics and challenges conventional beliefs.

Donald Trump is obsessed with saving a dying industry.

Although most of the 45th President’s promises are empty and meaningless, he has consistently spoken about saving the coal industry, and recently acted on that promise. Just a few days ago his Environmental Protection Agency, headed by Scott Pruitt, took a major step in attempting to resurrect the industry by repealing the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

The CPP was an Obama-era plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. However, the Republican narrative on why the repeal was necessary focused on economics, and not policy reform. They claim that environmental regulations are job killers and that restraining greenhouse gas emissions will damage the economy. However, as the New York Times reported, the coal industry has decreased its productivity by over 600 million megawatt-hours of electricity production since 2006, while natural gas and wind power production have increased significantly in that same time span.

As a result, the cost of renewable energies has declined over the last three years, from roughly $1.50 per watt to under $0.75, and is projected to go even lower in the years to come. With only 50,000 coal miners left in the United States, compared to 863,000 80 years ago, why do Republicans think this is about job creation?

As renewables become more prevalent within the energy sector, old programs should be phased out to make way for the new. The CPP did just that. It placed stricter regulations on the dying coal industry to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and allow for solar and wind energies to emerge as potential front-runners for electricity production.

Trump’s promises to small coal communities in Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other places while he was still a candidate led to his decision to act on the CPP. Even if he is acting out on a promise that he made as a candidate, it does not mean it is the right decision. Allowing the coal industry to survive is meaningless, because the future of energy production in this country lies in renewables.

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