Coal / Energy / Freeze on Clean Energy / Hydraulic Fracturing

Ohio’s economy: A test case for Trump’s climate decision

WASHINGTON, DC — “Ohio is a political bellwether each election cycle and a symbol of industrial decline stretching to the late 1970s. As steel mill closures mounted, Youngstown became the embodiment of deindustrialization. Still, in using Ohio as an emotional lever for voters concerned about job losses and the decline of coal, steel and heavy manufacturing, Trump has yet to get the story quite right. He ignores the economic trend lines pressing natural gas and renewable energy into action. Further, he continues pressing the case that coal — unencumbered by environmental regulation — is positioned to make a comeback.

Here’s how Ohio’s energy economy actually looks: Ohio had eight coal-fired power stations in March. It had just nine in March 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Gas-fired power generation in the state sprang from 32 gas plants in 2010 to 46 gas plants today, buoyed by the abundant Utica Shale gas reserves lying beneath eastern Ohio.

The economic development around renewable energy is also gaining ground. Ohio had zero solar power generating units in early 2010, and today it has 16. Ohio now has a dozen wind farms, when just one existed in 2010.

Those economic gains came despite a decision by Ohio’s Republican legislative leaders in 2014 to freeze the state’s renewable energy standard. The freeze expired at the beginning of this year after Gov. John Kasich (R) vetoed a bill that would have made the renewable target voluntary, saying it would hurt the state’s economy.

Coal-fired power generation in Ohio, promised a lifeline by Trump, has suffered more at the hands of cheap natural gas than from competition with wind and solar generation, according to most analyses. “There is a lot of good research showing that the decline of coal has very little to do with environmental regulation and a lot to do with natural gas,” said Susan Helper, former chief economist of the Commerce Department in the Obama administration and an economics professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.”

— Pete Behr, E&E News

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