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Renewables missing from Trump's energy plan

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 9, 2017
Even with federal support, coal will likely be too expensive to compete with renewable energy

The nation's energy policies appear to be ready to change drastically under President Donald Trump's administration.

The President’s "America First Energy Plan," published yesterday, appeared to focus almost exclusively on increasing fossil fuel production and rejuvenating the coal industry.

The plan called for accessing "the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own. We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure. Less expensive energy will be a big boost to American agriculture, as well."

Energy Information Administration

Another goal of the plan is to achieve "energy independence" from what the White House statement described as the "OPEC cartel and any nations hostile to our interests."

The plan will also promote clean coal technology, and reviving America's coal industry, "which has been hurting for too long."

The White House's energy plan came on the same day a report claimed the solar industry now employs more than twice as many as does the coal industry, slightly more than the oil industry, and five times as many people as in the nuclear energy market.

The report -- from The Solar Foundation -- claimed last year's growth in the solar industry outpaced the overall U.S. economy by 17 times.

Solar jobs
The Solar Foundation

Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy published a report showing jobs in the solar field surpassed those in the coal industry.

In 2016, the solar workforce increased by 25% over the previous year, to 374,000 employees, compared to 187,117 electrical generation jobs in the coal, gas and oil industries combined, according to the DOE's "Energy and Employment Report for 2017."

Industry experts have also noted that the coal industry isn’t likely to revive its previous output because it's simply too expensive compared with the cost of producing renewable energy.

The Trump Administration's energy plan did point out that the need for energy "must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment."

"Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water," the plan stated.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment from Computerworld.

In 2015, the average number of employees at U.S. coal mines decreased 12%, to 65,971 employees, the lowest on record since the Energy Information Agency began collecting data in 1978. Coal production decreased for the fourth year in a row, to 1,165 million tons, a decline of 6.3% from 2014 levels.


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