WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg broadly, repeatedly — and wrongly — took a huge amount of credit Friday for driving the U.S. coal industry to its knees.
The U.S. coal industry’s plunge is largely due to market forces, above all drops in prices of natural gas and renewable energy that have made costlier coal-fired power plants much less competitive for electric utilities. A new federal reportreaffirms that longstanding consensus among experts.
But reading the emissions-cutting climate plan that Bloomberg released, you might think it was nearly all due to the New York billionaire. Bloomberg’s announcement said U.S. coal production was on the decline “thanks to the efforts spearheaded by Mike over the past decade.”
Also in the announcement, it said he’s “helped close more than half the nation’s dirty coal plants.” He cites his partnership with a Sierra Club campaign “which has since shuttered more than half — 299 to date — of America’s coal-fired power plants, and counting.”
In reality, U.S. coal plants are struggling as major market forces turn against them, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reaffirms in its report out this week.
U.S. coal production peaked in 2008, but since then has fallen steadily. That’s due largely to a boom in oil and gas production from U.S. shale, begun under the Obama administration, that made natural gas far more abundant and cheaper, and falling prices for wind and solar energy, partly because of improving technology in the renewable sector.
Coal’s decline has been so inexorable that President Donald Trump has not succeeded in reviving it despite his easing of regulations on the industry.
Bloomberg’s energy plan calls for constraints on the expansion of natural gas, the primary fuel driving coal’s decline. He proposes making rules for new gas plants so tough that energy companies would not want to build them.
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Ellen Knickmeyer, The Associated Press