Debunking the 'War on Coal'

Debunking the 'War on Coal'

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A pile of coal with coal mining infrastructure
October 9, 2019

The Trump administration blames the decline in America’s coal industry on a regulatory “war on coal.” Yet investor reaction to regulatory announcements doesn’t support that view.

The U.S. coal industry has declined dramatically over the past decade, with output from the nation’s coal mines falling 35% from their peak. Today, coal-fired power plants generate just over a quarter of the nation’s electricity and have been surpassed by natural gas plants as the top source for electric power.

A variety of narratives have been put forth to explain coal’s decline. None has been more politically charged than the “war on coal” narrative, advanced by the Trump administration, that places blame on a set of Obama-era federal policies to reduce the environmental impact of coal.

Guests Cary Coglianese, director of the Penn Program on Regulation and Dan Walters, assistant professor of law at Penn State University, discuss new research that takes a close look at the impact of federal environmental regulation on the coal industry.  The research focuses on the reaction of investors to major regulatory announcements, and the extent to which federal energy and environmental policies have colored investors’ views of the future viability of the coal industry. 

Read Coglianese and Walter's working paper, Whither the Regulatory 'War on Coal'? Scapegoats, Saviors and Stock Market Reactions, here on the Kleinman Center website.

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