Coal is not coming back. Sorry, Wyoming, West Virginia and other states that mine the fading fuel.
Wisconsin, which imports most of its energy, is shutting down another coal plant, with plans to rely on more natural gas and renewable energy instead.
Congratulations to We Energies on its smart decision this week to close its Pleasant Prairie plant in Kenosha County. The plant burns about 13,000 tons of coal a day, most of it shipped here from Wyoming. The plant’s buildings and equipment will be removed, according to We Energies, which has pledged to help about 150 employees find jobs elsewhere in the company.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to end the “war on coal” and bring back coal mining jobs. But that’s not going to happen. The free-market economy favors natural gas, and the cost of renewable energy is falling, especially for solar.
Moreover, an increasing number of customers want their power companies to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, which emit the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.
Trump this year made a big show of rescinding his predecessor’s requirement that utilities significantly reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions over time. Yet utilities in Wisconsin and elsewhere still plan to proceed largely as the Obama administration wanted — with some going further in reducing carbon — because that’s what makes the most financial sense.
Trump can continue to undermine regulations on dirty coal. But he can’t repeal reality.
The Wisconsin State Journal this week reported “wind technician” is the fastest-growing occupation in the United States. Wind generation employs about 102,000 workers, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. An even bigger employer is solar energy, which accounts for about 374,000 jobs.
That’s far more than the 86,000 positions attributed to coal generation, or the estimated 74,000 coal miners.
The Trump administration is aggressively trying to defy market trends. Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for example, has been pushing for subsidies for coal plants that stockpile supplies as a supposed security measure. Yet despite Perry’s best efforts, three coal-fired plants in Texas recently announced they are shutting down.
This is good — not just for the planet and future generations of Americans, but also for utility bills.
We Energies told the Racine Journal Times this week that its goal in shuttering its Pleasant Prairie coal plant is to reduce the cost of supplying power as well as cutting carbon-dioxide emissions. We Energies also plans to develop a large solar energy project in the state by 2020.
Despite the Republican president’s big talk about bringing coal country back, coal production has fallen below 2016 levels, according to Bloomberg News. The future is clean energy — no matter how much the president wants to return to the past.