Another Wave Of Coal Plant Closures Is On The Way, But Can Trump Stop It?

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

President Trump has a lot of work ahead of him if he’s going to turn the coal industry around, since experts predict another 12 gigawatts of factory retirements are expected in the coming years.

Trump promised to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations hampering energy production, including those targeting coal mining. But data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) shows another wave of coal-fired power plant retirements are on the way.

The vast majority of U.S.-produced coal is used to generate electricity, so more power plant closures don’t bode well for coal mining companies — especially those struggling with or on the verge of bankruptcy.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects coal-fired power generation to increase slightly in 2017 due to higher natural gas prices. Coal plants are primarily being closed due to increased regulatory burdens and competitively-priced natural gas.

In the long-run, however, coal’s share of electricity generation is projected to continue to shrink.

Trump’s “America First Energy Plan” promises to repeal President Obama’s “Climate Action Plan,” which includes a major Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation affecting coal power plants expected to offline more coal capacity.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) is expected to cost $1 trillion and reduce coal production 32 percent as coal-fired power plants are forced to self-destruct — all to avert 0.02 degrees Celsius in projected projected global warming.

Repealing the CPP would brighten coal’s future prospects, but it won’t stop all the coal-fired power plant closures down the road. EPA rules on mercury, particulate covering sulfur dioxide pollution, also put coal plants at risk for closure.

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