U.S. coal production is rising again and could bring jobs back with it, according to a Wednesday report from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA)
Production fell in six out of seven quarters from 2014 to mid-2016, but rose in the third and fourth quarters of last year, according to the EIA report. The increase in production was mostly concentrated in Appalachia and the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming.
Higher than expected demand for electricity due to cold winter weather and rising natural gas prices pushed up production. This is good news for President Donald Trump, who promised to bring back coal jobs by rolling back onerous regulations created by former President Barack Obama and his administration.
America has 83,000 fewer coal jobs and 400 fewer coal mines than it did when Obama was elected in 2008, demonstrating that the president has followed through on his pledge to “bankrupt” the coal industry.
A 2015 study found the coal industry lost 50,000 jobs from 2008 to 2012 during Obama’s first term. During Obama’s second term, the industry employment in coal mining fell by another 33,300 jobs, 10,900 of which occurred in the last year alone, according to federal data. As a result, many ex-coal miners are unemployed, and Appalachian “coal country” has faced very real economic devastation as a result.
Major companies such as Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, and Arch Coal were forced to declare bankruptcy in the last year. Other coal companies like Alliance Coal announced mass layoffs. Peabody is now emerging from bankruptcy as part of the broader recovery of the coal industry.
Currently, coal mining employs 69,460 Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Much of the blame for job loss is targeted at federal regulations aimed at preventing global warming, which caused coal power plants to go bankrupt. However, the energy market does seem to have moved away from coal towards natural gas, though the extent of this transition is unclear.
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