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Why Donald Trump loves coal miners

By Laurie Bennett

June 2, 2017 at 7:10am

Not even the leaders of the coal industry believe that coal jobs can come back.

After meeting with Donald Trump in February, Robert Murray, founder and CEO of Murray Energy, told the press: “I suggested that he temper his expectations. Those are my exact words. He can’t bring them back.”

Coal miners have served, in the 2016 campaign and in Trump’s stated rationale for pulling out of the Paris accord, as a symbol. They represent the working man (emphasis on man) in a bygone era (emphasis on bygone).

Employment in the sector has been falling from a peak in the 1980s, not just because of competing energy sources or stricter environmental regulation, but because of new technologies. As the New York Times pointed out last year, industry practices such as mountaintop removal require fewer workers.

Total employment in 2014 was less than 77,000 workers. More people work in casinos and museums. Skiing employs almost as many people, the Washington Post notes.

But casinos, museums and ski slopes don’t strike the same chord with Trump’s base.

In November, Trump won the nation’s top coal-producing states - Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. The last, Pennsylvania, was particularly satisfying to the Trump campaign, and the president made a point of mentioning it Thursday. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said.

The mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, responded by vowing to abide by the global agreement.

In announcing the withdrawal from the accord, Trump said:

China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.

This is false, according to a Washington Post fact check.

The agreement does not prevent the U.S. from building coal plants. And China, btw, has announced that it is canceling plans to build more than 100 coal-fired plants.

Coal miners have become a stage prop. Our suggestion for a new source of income: demand residuals.

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