The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Where Did the Coal Jobs Go?

Apr 3, 2017

Donald Trump’s March 27 executive order tells the Environmental Protection Agency to get rid of future regulations on coal-fired power plants.

Trump said during a Kentucky speech that his new executive order would “save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work.

In response to Trump’s order, the boss at the largest U.S. coal company, CEO Robert E. Murray, did not promise new jobs. Instead he said, “I don’t really know how far the coal industry can be brought back.”

To this day, the United States produces a lot of coal but the number of coal jobs has been going down ever since 1920. According to researchers, recent job losses in coal have been due to automation.

Fewer coal miners produce an increasing amount of coal. Coal mining now is primarily done through above ground methods called “open pit” and “mountain top removal.” Gigantic trucks, gigantic earth movers and explosives “mine” coal.

Today, only 35 percent of mining is done underground. And parts of underground mining have been automated as well. So even if the amount of coal produced increases because of Trump’s executive order getting rid of regulations, the number of jobs will keep going down. The mining industry is moving toward self-driving equipment, both above ground and below ground.

So this executive order will not bring coal jobs back. It will just guarantee that current levels of air pollution continue. The older coal-fired U.S. power plants–which are heavy polluters–will keep operating.

Trump’s talk of creating new jobs is a fig leaf to cover up the naked truth that he wanted to hand corporations cuts in regulations!