US coal production is expected to fall even faster than if the Obama administration’s climate policy had taken effect, according to official projections, underlining the difficulties facing President Donald Trump in his aspirations to revive the industry.
The government’s Energy Information Administration projected in its latest annual outlook that US coal production would drop 21 percent over the next 20 years. That is an even steeper decline than the 18 percent drop that it forecast two years ago, under the assumption that Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan would come into force. Concerns about the long-term outlook for coal have added to the financial pressures on US mining companies.
Westmoreland Coal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last October, and shares in Cloud Peak Energy have lost more than 90 percent of their value over the past year. The coal producers that have been through bankruptcy in the past five years, shedding most of their debts and re-emerging on to the stock market, have fared better. But since August shares in Peabody Energy have fallen by 15 percent and in Contura Energy by 16 percent. Implementation of the Clean Power Plan — which imposed curbs on carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation — was suspended by the Supreme Court, and the Trump administration has been working to scrap it.
The White House issued a statement last week saying the president had “ended the ended the war on coal” and was “replacing the Clean Power Plan, a flawed Obama-era regulation”. Market forces have been driving electricity generators away from coal and towards natural gas and renewable energy, however, and those trends are expected to continue.