By Erik Sherman
February 20, 2019

Donald Trump may have said he would champion coal as part of his election strategy, but that isn’t carrying much weight anymore. The industry has faced a chill, with more coal power plants closing in the United States in his first two years than happened during Barack Obama’s entire first term.

Now there’s another sign that coal is losing popularity. Commodities trading and mining giant Glencore has capped its coal output, as the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Glencore is capping its coal production at 150 million tons a year. The reason is the reality of climate change. Burning coal to generate electrical power is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Although Trump has lifted at least one hurdle for building new plants, energy companies haven’t rushed to create more. In many other parts of the world, governments are making it tougher to use the fuel.

Instead, Glencore will invest in areas unlikely to run into climate change risks, whether regulatory or operational, that would affect the coal industry.

However, reducing the use of coal isn’t a simple process of regulating it out of existence. So-called “clean coal” subsidies have helped the industry and Wall Street make significant additional profits at taxpayer expense in the United States. Companies currently rake in $1 billion a year in tax breaks on the technologies that frequently don’t significantly reduce emissions that contribute to climate change, smog, and acid rain.

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