Donald Trump's promises during his 2016 presidential campaign that he would bring back coal and restore manufacturing jobs are proving to be as unrealistic as predicting -- and believing -- that the horse and buggy will eventually return and replace the automobile.
Forget the fact that automobiles long ago obliterated the horse & buggy business, sending those horses to the glue factory and the buggies to movie sets and antique shows.
That's what's happening to the coal industry, despite Trump's unrealistic promises that helped him win electoral votes from four of the five top coal producing states in the nation -- West Virginia, Wyoming, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. The remaining state in the top five, Illinois, went to Hillary Clinton.
It didn't matter that his promises were patently and obviously impossible to achieve, given the inexorable movement of power plants away from coal-fired furnaces to far cheaper and cleaner natural gas and the steady growth of renewable energy, like wind and solar.
Still, those who depended upon coal for a living wanted to believe those heady words and so cast their lot with Trump. But just as the horse & buggy is now history, so too will be coal one day. In fact, it was just announced today that coal production has fallen to a 42-year low despite Trump's attack on the environment in favor of coal and his appointment of a former coal lobbyist to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The US Energy Information Administration reported this week that coal used for US power generation is expected to decline by 14% this year to 545.8 million metric tons and coal consumed by the electric power sector will drop below 500 million short tons in 2020 for the first time since 1978 -- a decline of 27 percent since 2016.
What About Manufacturing?
Have you noticed the stock market over the past couple of weeks? Trump claims the decline is all because of the impeachment inquiry, but experts attribute it to concerns over a manufacturing recession, which the Wall Street Journal said today is now underway.
Last month, U.S. factory activity contracted for the second month in a row, hitting a 10-year low, according to the Institute for Supply Management. Moreover, the Commerce Department reported that new orders for durable goods like computers and machinery declined 4.2 percent in August from a year earlier.
What's behind this decline, which flies in the face of Trump's fanciful campaign promises of "bringing back" manufacturing and the jobs it provides?
Certainly, one factor is the inalterable march towards automation, including robotics. But compounding that has been Trump's trade wars, the experts say, which have given corporate executives fits as they try to plan for the future.
All of this is happening as Trump frantically tries to stonewall Congress' impeachment process, which has eaten into his base of support. Eventually, those coal miners and factory workers who have either lost their jobs or are working for half of what they used to earn will face their own reality.
The world is changing, and despite Trump's false promises, that is not going to stop.