As many liberal commentators have eagerly pointed out, coal is a dying industry, and it makes no sense to prop up a dying industry. The issue, however, isn’t whether Trump’s pulling out of the Paris Agreement is propping it up so much as refusing to kill the industry prematurely. About a third of America’s power still comes from coal, and well over half comes from fossil fuel sources. If there’s a winding down here, it would be best that this happens naturally rather than abruptly via federal imperatives, as we don’t have a meaningful plan to replace traditional energy sources. Trump’s affection for coal miners, who are also broadly a stand-in for the some of the most economically vulnerable Americans, is obviously a political ploy to some degree, but it’s good politics for a guy whose path to the White House ran through coal country.
Democrats and environmental activists seem to be speaking out of both sides of their mouth here. On one side, it’s imperative that we kill off coal as fast as possible to stave off global warming. On the other, 2016 has them scared that further alienating coal country voters—who had traditionally been union Democrats—is a threat to wielding the political power they need to kill off coal. Quite the conundrum.