3 Reasons To Be Concerned By Trump’s West Virginia Coal Rant

108 revealing words
Photo by Kent Kessinger / Appalachian Voices. Flight courtesy of Southwings / National Memorials for the Mountains photo stream, hosted by www.ilovemountains.org

Photo by Kent Kessinger / Appalachian Voices. Flight courtesy of Southwings / National Memorials for the Mountains photo stream, hosted by www.ilovemountains.org

Mr. Trump spoke to a West Virginia campaign rally on August 21. After bragging about his 2016 election margin in West Virginia, attacks on ESPN and the National Football League players, and claiming that steel production was roaring back to the US, he talked about coal:

You guys have a lot of courage but we love clean, beautiful, West Virginia coal. We love it, right? And you know that’s indestructible stuff. In times of war, in times of conflict, you can blow up those windmills. They fall down real quick. You can blow up those pipelines. They go like this and you’re not going to fix them too fast. You can do a lot of things to those solar panels. But you know what? You can’t hurt coal. You can do whatever you want to coal, very important. And we are working now on a military plan that’s got to be something very special.

Those were only 108 words near the start of a more than hour-long ramble, but leaving us three reasons to be concerned.

1. Trump’s thinking war. Mr. Trump is a bit more likely to telegraph his punches, than, for example, his predecessor, whose 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner appearance only hours before execution of one of the most consequential military operations of his Presidency, the mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, gave no hint of what was coming. That same night President Obama skewered Trump, for which it seems Trump is always taking his revenge.

Trump lets us know what he is thinking, even if he does not know what he is thinking. For example, we know why he fired Comey when we were not supposed to know why he fired Comey: he told NBC Anchor Lester Holt (and separately the Russian Foreign Minister) he fired Comey because of the Russia business.  So, when Mr. Trump speaks about war, even in the most casual way, we may reasonably assume war is on his mind.

2. Coal is not indestructible. It is absurd to think coal is any more indestructible than the other power sources. Coal in the ground is not going to be attacked by foreign enemies or domestic terrorists – unless we consider the coal companies to be domestic terrorists. The sun is rather more indestructible than coal, though. Sunshine and wind, or rushing rivers and waterfalls are also not going to be attacked. It is the power plant that converts the fuel that can be attacked. Coal power plants can be attacked like any other power plant. If anything, renewables are less vulnerable because they are more dispersed. Moreover, the environmental effects of a catastrophe at a nuclear, coal or oil power plant are vastly worse than at a renewable energy power plant.

Map by Ross Geredien / Appalachian Voices

Map by Ross Geredien / Appalachian Voices

3. Coal is destructive. Coal burning worldwide and in the United States is a leading contributor to pollution that harmful to health as well as driving catastrophic climate change. Air pollution includes mercury, sulfur dioxide,  nitrogen oxides, lead, mercury, cadmium, heavy metals, and soot. Carbon dioxide and methane from coal-burning drive global warming. Fortunately, in just the last decade coal’s share of American electricity production has fallen from over half to just 30.1% in 2017.  As Forbes reports, it will continue to decline as old plants are retired and it is more economical to build new power plants based on renewables and gas. The Trump “overhaul of federal pollution restrictions” would cause 1400 additional deaths per year by 2030 and many other health costs.  In reality, power companies now prefer renewables to coal because it is less expensive to build and operate. Mr. Trump recently threw tariffs on solar panels, perhaps strengthening US production or just attacking the US solar industry which provides 260,000 US jobs. Coal mining employs approximately 52,000 people. Increase, if any, will be small and short-lived.

Mr. Trump’s coal rant in West Virginia was logically ridiculous, but it has meaning.

It may signal his strategies to counter domestic political threats with national emergencies or war. Mr. Trump is given little credit for planning ahead, but he is adept at planning ahead to protect his own interests. Breaking the Iran deal, besides keeping a campaign promise may be, consciously as well as unconsciously, with this President, setting the stage for a war when he most needs one. Fortunately, Donald Trump may be giving us a heads up of what the war will look like, if we wish to see it, and of course, it is connected to the energy sector.

Opinion // Climate Change / Coal / Donald Trump / Solar Power / West Virginia