After a long, tireless fight, Joe Biden came out victorious as the newly elected President of the United States. On his inauguration day, Biden made nine very ambitious claims regarding the development of renewable energy, which are starkly different from the former President Donald Trump. In fact, Trump vowed to his supporters to medicate the declining coal energy, undoing the regulations to fossil fuels made during the Obama-era so coal could have a chance to thrive.
Apparently, he did not keep his word.
President Donald Trump and his desperate rescue of the coal
The former President was very wise to stand with people who work in the mining industry, especially “coal-communities”. By protecting them, he cultivated the support of a whole American archetype.
Back in the 2000s, coal was the main source of energy production. It peaked in 2008, but then slowly lost its grip soon after, as people started to consider alternatives and had capable technologies to support that quest.
Naturally, the Trump administration didn’t just sit idly by and let coal-fired plants die out. He loaded his administration with coal-industry executives and lobbyists, took big donations from the industry, rolled back environmental regulations, and so on, only to see a slight twitch in 2017. Ultimately, coal showed little to no signs of a rebound and is expected to drop 31% this year compared to 2016’s levels.
During Mr. Trump’s term, more than 50 plants have announced their bankruptcy, and more than 100 GW of coal capacity has either been retired or planning on doing so. They cannot compete with the dirt-cheap natural gas. They lack the long-term benefits of renewable energy, which is widely adopted more than ever as people are increasingly aware of the terrible roadmap of climate change.
Other than that, the Covid-19 pandemic stomped the US’s electricity demand as well as its export market. “Retirements of coal plants will continue, and I don’t think Trump has had any meaningful impact,” said Mark Levin, an analyst with the research firm, The Benchmark Co. “Consumption this year has completely fallen off a cliff.”
At this moment of writing, we are witnessing history: For the first time in 130 years, the US renewable energy consumption has surpassed coal. This is surely good news for the environment and the planet in general because we are talking about massive carbon emissions offset here. At the same time, however, many miners and industry workers are out of work, their livelihood is at stake. Many of them expressed resentment towards the former President, which might be one of the reasons why Mr. Trump became a one-term president.
So what is the future for coal?
Understandably, many of us developed a hatred for this natural resource, but there is much more to coal than carbon emissions. Coal can be used to make agricultural products, waxes, resins, and polymers. Also, you can extract rare earth elements from it, such as those needed for use in mobile phones, batteries, and medical supplies. Another idea is to turn the rocks into building materials, such as roof tiles or decking.
The possibility is endless. Coal use might be less intense like in the past, but it is certainly not out of work.
President Joseph Biden’s clean energy revolution
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there will only be 9 years left to stop the worst consequences of climate change. Hence, the newly elected President publicly stated the nine key elements in his plan to push renewables development and limit pollutants. He also ambitiously sought to support the welfare of fossil fuel workers, something that Mr. Trump did not have the chance to do while rallying the world to urgently act against climate change.
There is undoubtedly a clear contrast between the current and the former President’s vision for the energy segment. Unlike Mr. Trump, who neglected renewables and made multiple attempts to revitalize coal, Mr. Biden has a clear-cut plan to support clean energy from the start. Whether or not he achieves his claims, Americans and people can breathe a sigh of relief, for renewables finally eclipsed the dirty, polluting, and disaster-inducing coal.