Despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to revive the struggling U.S. coal industry, coal plants continue to close. And there’s really nothing he can or should do about it.
Even as legacies of the Obama administration’s environmental policy — most notably the Clean Power Plan and the Stream Protection Rule, both thorns in the side of the coal industry — are rolled back, coal’s future still looks bleak. Although coal accounted for 30 percent of U.S. electricity production in 2016 and is the preferred fuel of some heavy industries, the number of coal plants is shrinking and coal’s contribution to generating electric power has been in steady decline for years. Utilities are shuttering older coal plants, and there are no plans to build new units.