On the of March, Trump signed an executive order killing outright the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” to limit CO2 emissions from electrical utilities. The same order ends a moratorium on new Federal lands coal leases, and weakens restrictions on fracking on Federal lands. The Sierra Club, Mom’s Clean Air Force, and People’s Climate Movement protested in front of the White House against what amounts to a War on the Climate by Trump.
With Trump pushing coal mining, fracking, tar sands, and pipelines, a lot of people are in the line of fire. The Dakota Access Pipeline is about to be put into service, assuming no further sabotage delays and that enough banks don’t dump the project to bankrupt Energy Transfer Partners. At the March 28 protest, one of the Sierra Club speakers mentioned the ongoing campaign to get Washington DC to divest all city funds from Wells Fargo, one of the banks most deeply involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Already several banks (most recently Netherlands-based ING Bank and Norway’s DNB Bank) have dumped their investments in the DAPL. As for things like mountaintop removal coal mining, even Bank of America declared they were stopping most coal mine financing two years ago. That was ALL coal mining, not just mountaintop removal. No amount of regulating-gutting by Trump can revive an industry that the banks won’t invest in because of pressure from their account holders. Vivisection is legal after all, but Huntingdon Life Sciences is barely hanging on because so few banks etc will touch them.
Trump for his part parroted coal industry lines about a “war on coal” by the Obama adminstration but direct action oriented environmental activists know a war on coal when they see one and this never came from Obama. It was not environmental restrictions that shut down huge numbers of coal burning power plants, it was competition from cheap fracked gas. Obama’s EPA blocked one permit for a mountaintop removal coal mine, but that cheap gas meant nobody was going to invest in opening new coal mines anyway. Fracked gas involved so much leaked methane that it is suspected of being about as bad for the climate as coal, so replacing coal with gas saves the mountains but not the climate.
Trump promises a return of coal mining jobs, but largely automated surface mines generate far fewer jobs than traditional underground mining and come closer to competing on a price basis with fracked gas. If Trump really wanted to bring back coal jobs he would have to ban both gas fracking and mountaintop removal surface mining, thus forcing utilities to use coal mined from underground mines. Even then automation might be a job killer.
The main environmental harm done by Trump’s Dirty Energy Plan probably will be to kick the legs out from under any support for renewable energy. Trump wants to remove essentially all regulation from both coal and gas, and probably all subsidies from renewables as well.