- - Thursday, February 23, 2017

President Trump’s boisterous press conferences sometimes cast a shadow over one of his most important achievements so far: his executive order suspending runaway Environmental Protection Agency rules that all but bankrupted the American coal industry. Three of America’s largest coal companies declared Chapter 11 in recent years largely as a result of rules like the Clean Power Plant Act, a gift of Barack Obama.

The regulations Mr. Trump rescinded were intentionally designed by Mr. Obama’s EPA to strangle American coal. Tens of thousands of coal miners and workers in related industries were sent to unemployment lines, but that didn’t bother the liberal fixers of “things that ain’t broke.” Coal towns in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia were devastated. The Sierra Club celebrated and said the crusade against coal wouldn’t be over until every coal miner was out of a job. Hillary Clinton said so, too. These cold liberals said the government could just send more welfare checks to Appalachia.

America was built on coal. Fossil fuels, following the demise of windmills and the like as the sources of inefficient production of electricity, provided the spark that ignited American industry and made it the industrial leader of the world, and kept it the leader for more than a century and a half. “America,” said Winston Churchill on the eve of World War II, “is a mighty boiler, and once alight there is no limit on what it can produce.” Coal fired that boiler.

Despite an eight-year assault on coal by fanatics who dream of an America cut down to size, coal is still responsible for almost a third of America’s electricity. Wind and solar power, despite enormous subsidies of more than $100 billion over the last decade, still produce less than 5 percent of America’s energy.

Skeptics say coal can never come back because it can’t compete with cheap and abundant natural gas. But coal production costs are falling and — environmentalists, take note — clean coal is here to stay. Emissions from coal plants have fallen by more than half over the last 30 years, and improvements are coming if the government will just get out of the way.

Healthy competition between coal and natural gas — both superabundant, both “American made” — is just the kind of magical market force that drives down prices for consumers. Thanks to coal and natural gas, the United States enjoys the lowest cost of power, which gives American industry an enormous competitive advantage. Nuclear power will continue to play an important role, and naturally the left hates nuclear power, too.

The left gave up on the 100,000 coal workers in America more than a decade ago. Donald Trump has not. That’s why the working class saw him, not Hillary, as friend and champion. Those who say coal is yesterday’s energy source should stand back and watch what’s coming. Energy is the master resource, and everything produced by man, from food to computers to skyscrapers, is ultimately derived from energy. The free market, not government, should choose which cost-effective energy source to feed that mighty boiler.

America has 500 years of coal reserves — far more than any other nation in the world. We should use it.

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