Coal Power Plant Shutdowns Surge Under Trump

January 14, 2019, 2:04 PM UTC

Coal-fired power plants are on the march—out of business. And despite promises that Donald Trump made during and after his presidential campaign, the long-term trend has only increased.

More coal-fired power plants closed during Trump’s first two years in office than during Barack Obama’s entire first term, according to Reuters.

A total of 23,400 megawatts of coal-fueled generation shut down in 2017 and 2018. From 2009 through 2012, the amount was 14,900. And 2018 saw the highest level of shutdowns since 2015. A megawatt can power 1,000 typical homes.

Trump campaigned partly on reviving the coal industry and his administration has taken some steps in an attempt to make good. The EPA has been ready to kill new regulations that would affect new coal power plants. And subsidies from prior administrations on so-called clean coal have generated big profits for Wall Street and the energy industry.

But despite favorable treatment, coal faces a brutal world. As evidence of climate change’s impact on the world mounts, attitudes toward coal have become increasingly harsh. Even that might not matter except for the accompanying economic realities.

Renewable energy sources have become increasingly viable because of their plummeting costs and natural gas has become a favorite fuel for electrical generation because it’s cleaner to burn, cheaper than coal, and easier to turn on and off, given utilities more flexibility.