Trump Watch: Beautiful, Clean Coal!

Coal, historically, is the dirtiest source of energy ever used. Yet, once again, this week-end, Trump tweeted that it was beautiful and clean:

Why tweet about the beauty of coal? Probably to manifest support for the top environmental destruction man in his team, Scott Pruitt. As the head of EPA, Pruitt has been busy dismantling his agency  – with  a 23% cut in the EPA budget, systematic deregulation of the fossil fuels industries, and most recently, interfering with scientific work, blocking the publication of a public health study on nation-wide water contamination from chemicals.

Certainly Pruitt needs support from Trump to help him fight complaints against his ethics regarding his security detail, travel expenses, housing arrangements and other issues.

There is also something decidedly odd about Trump’s tweet: the claim that America has “250 years worth” of coal. It seems to echo a universal mantra about everyone having 250 years of coal left in the ground, for example, so does Germany. Ten years ago, Jeff Goodell, a contributing editor to the Rolling Stone, in a bestseller called “Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future”, debunked those numbers, pointing out that they were based on old studies made in the 1970’s and never properly updated.

The United States is not the Saudi Arabia of coal

Anyone looking at the US Energy Information Administration’s analysis of coal reserves can see that Goodell is right: It’s a simple arithmetic update, not a technical one. Moreover its page assessing the environmental impact of coal is woefully inadequate and leaves out any pertinent analysis of the cost of coal.  One wonders whether this is in response to a Trump Administration request to leave out the data.

In short, the death of coal is here, calling the U.S. the “Saudi Arabia of coal” is a myth, in fact one of five myths regarding “clean coal. The other four myths are:

  1. we can capture carbon emissions from coal and bury them underground with CCS technology (we can’t: despite advances, there is still a reduction in air quality);
  2. emissions from coal plants are down 35% since the 1970s and the air is cleaner (not true, mercury pollution is on the rise and the American Lung Association in a 2011 report estimated that particle pollution from coal-fired power plants still killed 13,000 Americans every year);
  3. coal-fired power plants produce less mercury than the amount naturally buried in the soil (the problem: while “natural” buried mercury does not affect water sources and streams, coal-produced mercury does, adversely impacting the aquatic food chain);
  4. coal mining creates jobs (it does not, coal mining employment has plummeted since the 1950’s, accelerated by robotization, making a return to the 1950’s employment level is impossible).

Are an additional  1,700  coal jobs worth 13,000 deaths every year? Actually, even if it were 50,000 jobs, it would not be worth it. It’s a matter of, yes, ethics.

Trump has no moral qualms, he does  not believe in climate change or environmental pollution. All this business about coal causing lung disease in miners and polluting the air we breathe, not to mention the on-going  6th extinction announced by misguided scientists and journalists like Elizabeth Kolbert – all fake news!

American “energy dominance” is the only thing that matters. If MAGA requires turning the planet in a burning desert, so be it.

Trump’s vision of the world is stunningly reductive: it is a power play where bullies, and only bullies, win out.  In fact, MAGA is the lens through which Trump sees everything, from international trade, peace and development to international diplomacy.

When he reported on his recent meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, he couldn’t resist it. He tweeted Mr. Guterres is “working had to ‘Make the United Nations Great Again’”:

MUNGA? Sounds a little strange, but for Trump, that is ultimate praise. Mr. Guterres, you are MUNGA and you should be pleased even though you probably always thought that the UN was “great” to begin with – or you wouldn’t have bothered to work for the UN,  starting in 2005 to head the UN Refugee Agency, and now the UN.

No doubt, this warm meeting of MAGA and MUNGA was the work of Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN. She has Trump’s ear. For example, the new WFP Executive Director, David Beasley who was nominated by Trump is her long-time friend (they were both Republican governors of South Carolina). Indeed, the concept Trump mentions – that solving conflicts around the world saves money for the US that “has less to do” – is precisely what I have heard Beasley say to the WFP Executive Board.

One can support Haley and Beasley in their approach: This is the only kind of language Trump understands. Save money for the US, the rest of humanity doesn’t count.


Featured Image: Valley fill – Mountaintop removal coal mining in Martin County, Kentucky. 6 June 2006 Credit: image on  Licensed under CC BY-SA

About the Author /

Claude Forthomme is a writer and an economist. A graduate of Columbia University, Claude held a variety of jobs before starting a 25-year career at the United Nations (Food and Agriculture), ending as Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia. She authored many fiction books under various pen names in both English and Italian; she is considered a prime exponent of Boomer literature and has founded the Boomer Lit Group on Goodreads. Her poetry has been included in "Freeze Frame", an international poetry anthology curated by British poet Oscar Sparrow (Gallo Romano Media, 2012).

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