Donald Trump spent months promising miners that he’d make the ailing coal mining industry great again during his election campaign. But it seems one of the president’s top economic aides has other ideas.
Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, told reporters aboard Air Force One Thursday night that coal “doesn’t make sense anymore,” as he talked up other energy sources.
“Coal doesn’t even make that much sense anymore as a feedstock,” he said, CNN Money reported. Feedstock refers to what’s used to produce energy. Cohn called natural gas a “such a cleaner fuel,” and pointed out that America has become an “abundant producer” of the fossil fuel.
He also praised renewable energy. “If you think about how solar and how much wind power we’ve created in the United States, we can be a manufacturing powerhouse and still be environmentally friendly,” Cohn said.
Cohn’s outlook is far removed from Trump’s campaign chorus about bringing back coal and eliminating regulations to boost jobs. “Miners ... get ready because you’re going to be working your asses off,” he said during a campaign speech a year ago.
In March, Trump declared at a ceremony in the White House surrounded by miners that he would “put our miners back to work.” “My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” he said. “We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal.”
Statistics show that the coal industry began losing jobs long before the Obama administration imposed environmental restrictions — contradicting Trump’s claims — because it’s not economically competitive with other energy sources.
“The market conditions are not there,” Dan Bucks, a coal policy expert and former director of revenue for the coal-producing state of Montana, told HuffPost in March. “Federal policy is only one variable, and market conditions are the larger factor.”
Coal mining accounted for some 65,000 jobs in the U.S. in 2015, according to government data. Estimates of the number of renewable energy jobs in the United States vary, but they’re conservatively believed to be in the hundreds of thousands.