Danielle Elkins: What are Trump and Clinton’s plans for coal?
If you’re unaware of the heated national debate about the future of energy and jobs in America, you’ve been living under a rock.
We have two presidential candidates with two completely different plans to “solve” America’s current energy and job-related issues. Environmentalists are in Hillary Clinton’s corner, while labor unions are in the opposite corner with Donald Trump.
So, what are Clinton and Trump claiming they’ll do to get America back up and running?
Let’s compare and contrast.
Trump’s campaign website claims that President Obama’s “anti-energy orders have weakened our security, keeping us reliant on foreign sources of energy.”
In his vision for an “America First Energy Plan,” Trump vows to make America energy independent by unleashing the nation’s untapped shale, oil and natural gas reserves, in addition to coal reserves — which he says all adds up to a worth of about $50 trillion. To make this happen, he plans to open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate moratorium on coal leasing and open shale energy deposits.
He’s making the promise to encourage the use of natural gas and other American energy resources, which he says will both reduce emissions and the price of energy.
Finally, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Trump plans to rescind all of Obama’s executive actions. Doing this, he claims, will create half a million jobs per year and $30 billion in increased wages by eliminating Obama’s “barriers to responsible energy production.”
Clinton has other plans.
Her plan for coal is to follow through with Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which will devastate coal communities across the nation. Clinton claims that she has a plan, however, to “revitalize” coal communities.
According to Clinton’s campaign website, “coal is not the only resource mining and power plant communities possess,” therefore Clinton says that she will partner with local entrepreneurs, community leaders, foundations and labor groups to work on unleashing that potential.
Clinton outlines plans to rebuild infrastructure, repurpose mined lands and power plant sites, expand broadband access, expand clean energy on federal lands and from existing dams and increase public investment in research and development.
Additionally, she claims that she will attract new private investment by extending and expanding the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program so all communities suffering from a decline in coal production or a coal plant closure qualify.
Neither candidate seems to have a very detailed plan thus far. We aren’t seeing definite numbers coming from Trump or Clinton.
A major question I have is whether Clinton’s plan to revitalize coal communities nationwide takes into account the hundreds of millions of dollars that coal was once pumping into those communities each year? Would her plan help to generate enough economic growth in such communities to get them back to that point?
In the 1990s, Washington waged a war on the tobacco industry, a war that many think was all too similar to the one that is currently tearing down the coal industry. Many tobacco farmers where I’m from in southwest Virginia were left with no other viable choice than to sell out to the federal government.
A government program was put in place to help failing tobacco farmers and their families, and that program helped to send many farmers’ children to local community colleges, among other incentives that it provided. There were also promises from the government, similar to the ones that Clinton is making, to rebuild infrastructure and expand broadband access in tobacco-farming communities.
However, in an Aug. 28 New York Times article by Coral Davenport about the fact that coal country is wary of Clinton’s promises to help, Terry Kilgore, chairman of Virginia’s Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, is quoted as saying, “We have great broadband, we’ve gotten some call centers. That’s helped us, but it wasn’t enough to replace tobacco, and it’s not enough to replace coal.”
Ben Chaffin, Senator of Virginia’s District 38, watched the decline of his father’s tobacco farm.
“I’m a lawyer. I rarely get offended by an offering of money to redress a wrong, but $3 billion a year won’t even be enough to buy everyone a custard cone,” Chafin said in the same article.
You’ll have to forgive those of us who have lived in these affected communities and “been there before” if we have difficulty believing in your brand of hope for coal communities, Madame Secretary.
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