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Op Ed: Coal use and responsible environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive ideas

By Ray McCarty, President/CEO, Associated Industries of Missouri

During the 2016 campaign, President Trump actively campaigned to end the “war on coal”.  His message resonated with not only states whose economies benefit from production and shipment of coal, but with manufacturers and industry. This includes those who believe in our country’s energy independence, and with others that see coal exports as a way to balance our ever-growing trade deficit.

President Trump made good on that promise – signing an Executive Order establishing an energy policy that supports U.S. businesses, creates new American jobs, and reduces the carbon footprint of coal plants.  For more than a decade, the coal industry has lost thousands of jobs.  Since 2011, coal mine jobs fell from 91,611 to just 65,971 in 2015 according to the Energy Information Administration.  That same agency reports that coal accounted for about half of American electricity ten years ago to just 29% in 2016. In Missouri, we get more than 80% of our electricity from coal-fired generating plants.

Coal is one of the most widely used fuel resources on the planet, and nations are utilizing this important energy source to power impressive economic growth. These countries are making the most of their coal reserves and pioneering clean coal technology.  I’m hopeful President Trump’s actions this week put the U.S. on a similar path of growth and development. Environmental statutes should be modernized to support growth and allow our economy to prosper while still ensuring environmental protection.

Coal use and responsible environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive ideas. Clean coal technologies can significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions while producing more energy with less coal. While the United States is leading the way in carbon capture technology development, such technologies need further development to be technically and commercially viable. Federal policies and resources should provide meaningful support in encouraging additional development of clean coal technology.

EPA regulations that set unobtainable standards do not work. Renewable energy alone cannot fuel our global economy. Fossil fuels are necessary now and will be well into the future. Therefore, it is critical the United States get on board with the development and implementation of clean coal practices across the nation. This will improve our nation’s energy security, safeguard jobs, and protect the environment.

President Trump’s commitment to American coal not only provides stable American jobs, but it could power development around the world, despite attempts by institutions like the World Bank to curtail developing countries from exploiting their own abundant coal resources. Rather than trying to block development, we should instead seek to export America’s world leading energy technology, in order to help countries use their resources in the most effective way.

We want trade and development policies that support U.S. businesses and lead to the creation of American jobs. President Trump’s efforts to that end should be applauded.

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