In his State of the Union address, American President Donald Trump steered clear of explicit reference to climate change, but to the dismay of climate doomsday propagandists, he declared coal “beautiful and clean.”
What does this mean for America and the developing nations, whose fossil fuel-based energy infrastructures, and hence their economies, face the threat of a forced conversion to renewables in the name of combating global warming?
Trump’s marked departure from mainstream climate alarmism began during his presidential campaign, when he pledged to revive coal plants and do away with environmental policies that threatened America’s energy sector.
Staying true to his words, Trump declared the U.S. pullout from the Paris Agreement and directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to focus on local environmental problems that pose immediate dangers, as opposed to a global issue like climate change, which is more theoretical and predictive.
The EPA’s Five Year Strategic Plan under Trump omitted climate change altogether. The administration can’t get any more transparent about its policies on coal and climate change.
And Trump was right. Coal has been the backbone of the Western economy and is now helping developing countries to progress from their (literally) dark ages. Lights—and heat, air conditioning, refrigeration, and more—will turn on in multiplying developing countries as they avail themselves of this abundant, affordable, reliable resource.
Barring a few nations like Canada, France, and Scandinavia, coal still serves as a major component of the energy mix in Western countries.
Trump’s decision to support coal strengthens the U.S. energy sector, which in 2016 depended on coal for 30 percent of its electricity. A strong coal sector is indispensable for the country’s energy sector and economy.
Globally, too, as of 2014 about 41 percent of electricity is generated from coal. In the economies of developing countries, this percentage increases even more. India and China depended on coal for 72 percent of electricity generated, and both have expanded their use of coal in the ensuing years.
In fact, India’s high dependence on coal enabled it to generate surplus energy in 2017, for the first time in history. India’s main coal development authority—Coal India Limited—is committed to increasing domestic coal production and building new coal plants.
Developing economies are highly dependent on the low costs of electricity produced from fossil fuels. They cannot afford to make a transition to more expensive and unreliable renewables.
Constant heckling from climate alarmist elites and international institutions like the UN aims to dissuade them from fully utilizing their abundant coal reserves. But if harnessed efficiently, coal will return rich dividends in terms of economic growth and poverty alleviation.
For the developing nations, Trump’s declaration on coal couldn’t come at a better time. Being the leading economy of the world, the U.S. leads by example in policy global political and energy policies.
With Trump at America’s helm, political institutions like the UN will not have the same thrust they enjoyed during the anti-coal establishment of former President Barack Obama.
In his address, Trump declared “We have ended the war on American energy.” In large measure this points to the end of the war on clean, affordable, reliable fossil-fuel based energy globally, too.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Coimbatore, India.