Chris White Tech Reporter June 23, 2020 3:41 PM ET
Coal plant closures have accelerated under President Donald Trump despite the president’s 2016 presidential campaign promise to end what he called his Democratic predecessor’s war on coal, according to a report published Monday.
There were nearly 48 gigawatts of coal power retired during the entirety of former President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, with 33 gigawatts coming offline in his second term, E&E News reported, citing data from the Energy Information Administration. Roughly 37 gigawatts of coal have been lost during Trump’s term, data show.
Another 3.7 gigawatts is expected to end over the next six months. A gigawatt is typically used to measure the production capacity of large power plants or power grids. One gigawatt can power nearly 300,000 homes, provided the stream of energy is constant.
“It’s a holocaust. There is no other way to describe it,” Fred Palmer, a former executive at Peabody Energy, told E&E News Monday. “I’ve always fought the closing coal plant fight, but never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d get to where we are today.”
Palmer is a Trump supporter and member of the National Coal Council. He was formerly an executive with Peabody Energy, which filed for bankruptcy in 2016. Peabody cited the coal industry’s downward plunge in the energy market, stiff competition from natural gas producers, and a drop in Chinese economic production as reasons for the bankruptcy.
Palmer said he does not believe Trump is to blame for coal’s gloomy conditions. “I am a supporter of Donald Trump’s, and I don’t think what he has not done is something that precipitated this,” Palmer said. (RELATED: More Than 50 Coal Companies Have Been Wiped Out Since Trump’s 2016 Victory)
The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment, but agency spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes told E&E that the president made one big and consequential move: He gave the coal industry a fighting chance by ending Obama’s regulations.
“President Trump ended the Obama Administration’s eight-year war on coal by eliminating the top down federal mandates that were destroying coal producing communities all over the nation, most importantly rolling back the Clean Power Plan,” Hynes told E&E in an email.
Hynes was referring to the so-called Clean Power Plan, which required states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2022 and encouraged states to close and replace facilities with natural gas, E&E reported.
Obama’s rule was expected to force more coal power plants and mines to close down, costing thousands of jobs in the process. Nearly 40% of coal-fired power capacity has been retired or announced plans to retire as a result of market forces, technological change and an increase in regulations, according to some experts.