Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: ‘If you believe in markets, you have to believe the era of coal has ended’

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Park City, Utah — “Anything that Trump does is not going to bring back a single coal job, not one,” said environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. “If you believe in markets, you have to believe that the era of coal has ended.”

Kennedy, President of Waterkeeper Alliance, spoke to EnviroNews Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry during a wide-ranging interview in Park City, Utah on June 8, 2017, at the Waterkeeper Alliance International Conference. Kennedy’s main point: The Trump Administration’s favoring of fossil fuels over renewables will cost the nation jobs rather than save them.

“The solar industry is growing at 17 times the rate of the rest of the economy and the number one job demand is for wind turbine engineers,” said Kennedy. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reported the solar power industry created more U.S. jobs in 2016 than the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries combined. Employment in the electric power generation sector is up 13 percent over 2015, and the DOE states the majority of jobs “are comprised of employees installing and building new renewable energy capacity additions.”

Power generation from coal declined 53 percent from 2006 to 2016, while solar grew 5,000 percent, according to data from the same DOE report. Bloomberg New Energy Finance concluded, “With the vast majority of America’s coal getting shipped to the country’s shrinking fleet of power plants that burn it, there’s little economic need to increase coal production.”

Kennedy explained it this way: “An industrial utility scale solar plant in this country costs $1 billion a gigawatt. A coal plant costs $3-5 billion a gigawatt, an oil plant or gas plant costs $3-5 [billion per gigawatt], and a nuke plant costs $9-15 [billion per gigawatt].” An analysis by Energy Post found that capital and operating costs for coal-fired power plants are higher than for new natural gas, wind or solar facilities. In addition, coal industry jobs are being lost to greater automation of the mining process.

“Coal is never coming back to eastern Kentucky or southern West Virginia,” Kennedy added. But, he pointed out, “a lot of those jobs in the renewable energy sector are in red states like Utah, which are not going to benefit from the withdrawal of support” by President Trump.

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