Coal / Energy

Miner Change: Trump’s big talk on coal brings small change in first year

LOUISVILLE, KY — “…West Virginia added more than a thousand coal jobs. But jobs were lost in Kentucky and Ohio. Overall the three states saw coal add just 745 employees in 2017. Industry analysts say the increase is largely due to temporary conditions in the global market.

Marsters focuses on Chinese environmental and energy issues. U.S. coal exports to Asia increased in the last year partly because a cyclone knocked Australian coal out of the market. Marsters said that disruption in global supply — and not domestic regulation changes — explains the bump in U.S. production.

Marsters also co-authored a Rhodium Group report that examined the causes for coal’s decline over the past six years. It found that the rise of cheap natural gas as a competing fuel, improvements in energy efficiency, and growth in renewable energy were the greatest factors. Environmental regulations played a relatively small role, the report concluded, accounting for about 3 to 5 percent of the industry’s decline over the last several years.

“You know, I think the administration largely overstates its impact on coal markets and its ability to decide their fate,” he said.

Marsters says most increases have come for mines that produce what’s called metallurgical coal, used for making steel. But the vast majority of U.S. coal production is for what’s called “steam” coal, the coal used to generate electricity. And there, the outlook for coal is still grim.”

— Becca Schimmel, Ohio Valley ReSource

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