By Jeff McMahon
Republicans and Democrats both have reasons for perpetuating the idea of a ”war on coal,” energy experts said this week, but the decline in coal’s fortunes stems largely from competition with natural gas.
“Both sides have a vested interest in the storyline for their constituencies: one, that the government is putting them out of work, and on the other side, that they’re reducing emissions,” said Steve Cicala, an expert on the economics of regulation and professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. “And their respective constituencies love that story whether it’s true or not.”
The story’s not true, Cicala contends, so there’s little a President Donald Trump could do to improve coal’s prospects or to save the jobs of coal miners by ending a government war on coal. To keep his campaign promise to revive the coal industry, he has to find a way raise the price of natural gas.
“The only thing that’s going to help these coal-fired power plants stay open and keep operating is if the price of natural gas goes up,” Cicala said in a podcast released Friday by the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago. “That’s the only thing that’s going to make it economical to be firing up these plants…”
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