At Tuesday’s vice presidential debate, Donald Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, alleged that over the past seven and a half years, President Obama has waged a “war on coal.” To hear Gov. Pence tell it, government regulation has caused the decline of coal mining communities across America, and a Trump administration will swoop in to save these communities. The problem is, neither claim is true, and both are dangerous.
Let’s clear the record. For decades, the coal industry has faced economic challenges ranging from mechanization to corporate mismanagement to unstoppable market forces, including access to much cheaper natural gas. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has, out of pure political expediency, preyed on the understandable concerns of coal communities. It’s a deplorable tactic that provides no proposals to help the employees of a struggling industry transition to a more sustainable energy economy, a shift most Americans want in order to protect today’s children from the worst impacts of climate change.
The truth is the coal industry’s decline has spanned more than five presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, whose administrations saw among the most precipitous loss of coal jobs in U.S. history.
At Tuesday’s debate, Gov. Pence repeatedly claimed voters should elect Donald Trump in order to end the Obama administration’s so-called “war on coal”. Translation: A Trump-Pence administration would end pollution limits on dirty coal-fired power plants, endangering health and accelerating climate change.
On the campaign trail, Trump himself repeatedly vows to bring back coal by eliminating environmental and worker safety regulations he erroneously claims are killing the industry. But if Mr. Trump and Gov. Pence think they are making a clever power play for swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, they’re plain wrong. Voters can tell when politicians stoke their fears for political gain. Plus, Pennsylvanians and Ohioans alike overwhelmingly favor clean energy like solar and wind over dirty energy sources.
In the battle for America’s energy future, Hillary Clinton is the real fighter. In addition to her plan to dramatically expand clean energy production, her $30 billion plan to revitalize coal communities would build on President Obama’s efforts to provide miners and their families with alternatives to a dirty and dangerous coal industry. Clinton’s plan would award competitive grants in areas like entrepreneurship and small business development, housing, and education and job training programs. Coal communities deserve this kind of assistance as America transitions to a cleaner energy future.
Gov. Pence should abandon the tall tale of the “war on coal.” In Pennsylvania alone, the clean energy industry employs almost as many Americans as the entire coal industry does nationwide, and voters know it. If Gov. Pence cared about the nearly 70,000 hard-working Americans whose livelihoods in the coal industry are at risk in a changing 21st century economy, he would drop the political charade, quit pandering to the Koch brothers and the GOP donor class, and focus on real solutions to help communities move forward.