Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed to rescind rules restricting coal mining and fracking in a bid to woo voters in energy-traditional states like West Virginia, Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Energy experts question whether he can deliver on his promises.
Donald Trump is campaigning hard to win the support of voters in states hit hard by President Barak Obama’s energy policies restricting coal and gas.
Last Saturday while on the campaign trail in Roanoke in western Virginia, Trump vowed to “end the war on American energy and on our miners”. He contrasted himself to his rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, warning that “she wants to put the miners out of work”.
Trump’s pro-fossil fuels stance appeals strongly to voters in states like West Virginia, where a decline in coal mining has harmed the economy and put thousands out of work. And Ohio, long considered a key swing state, is now leaning towards Trump, where fracking has employed thousands after manufacturing jobs were lost to foreign competition in the past few decades.
Even states like Colorado and Pennsylvania, both of which went to the Democrats in the 2012 election, are now split evenly between Trump and Clinton with just over 40 days left before the election. Both states have lost a number of fracking jobs since the slump in energy prices two years ago.
Trump also vowed to reverse Obama’s restrictions on coal and gas, including his plan to shut down coal-fired plants. The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering whether the plan is constitutional.
“I think probably no other business has been affected by regulation than your business,” Trump said in Pittsburgh. “Federal regulations remain a major restriction to shale production.”
But energy experts question whether Trump can deliver on his energy promises. Fracking is mainly conducted on state-owned and private lands where federal regulations have limited authority. And the slump in energy prices has to do with Saudi Arabia’s policy of keeping its taps open despite a glut of natural gas and oil.
What’s more, if Trump were to increase the production of gas, it would even further suppress the price of coal.
“There is a fundamental inconsistency between Trump’s promise to ‘bring the coal industry back 100 percent,’ as he says, and any promises to use government policy to grow the market for natural gas,” said Harvard Business Professor Robert Stavins, who specialises in environmental economics. “If the Trump administration wanted to help coal, it could ban fracking. But he can’t have it both ways.”
Written by John Dyer
Image credit: Peabody Energy