Opinion: Trump’s Trade Stupidity May Fatally Injure the Coal Industry

Like everything entailed with being head of the Executive Branch, it appears that Trump is discovering that international trade is much more complicated and harder than his pea-brain is capable of processing. Of course, besides being an imbecile, Trump cannot comprehend that the rest of the world, or members of the House Freedom Caucus, are not going to obey his every dictate or acquiesce to policies intended to enrich Donald Trump, boost Donald Trump’s ego, or make Donald Trump look like a decisive badass.

It is unclear what Trump thought was going to happen when he imposed tariffs on Canadian “soft wood – thank him for being assaulted? That’s not the Canadian way. Like most people who know how to deal with a loud-mouthed bully, the Canadians are hitting back and the coal industry is about to learn that instead of rescuing their already dying business, their hero probably decimated what is already an archaic, outdated, and dying industry.

Mainstream media has been relatively silent about a letter the Premiere of Canadian Province British Columbia, Christy Clark, issued to Justin Trudeau with a message to Trump that Canadians are not going to be bullied. She tweeted that: “It’s time to ban thermal coal from BC ports.”

Now, this is a debilitating blow for the coal industry because all Western thermal coal is exported from ports in British Columbia, Canada. That amounts to about 6.2 million tons of U.S. thermal coal that was shipped from the Port of Vancouver last year on its way to Asia. If Trump wasn’t a know-nothing idiot, that number was expected to increase in the future. Now it appears that not only will that number not increase, it is likely going to be reduced to zero and virtually destroy the Western states coal industry.

Ms. Clark’s “Tweet” contained the letter she sent to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ban American coal shipments out of Canadian ports. Clark’s letter read in part:

For many years, a high volume of U.S. thermal coal has been shipped through BC on its way to Asia. It’s not good for the environment, but friends and trading partners cooperate. So we haven’t pressed the issue with the federal government that regulates the port.

Clearly, the United States is taking a different approach. So, I am writing you today to ban the shipment of thermal coal from BC ports.” (author bold)

Notice that the Canadians regarded America as a “friend and trade partner” that warranted cooperation even though they oppose climate destroying dirty coal. Still, the Canadians didn’t “press the issue” and allowed American coal exporters to use a Canadian port to ship their product to Asia because the three American West Coast states are environmentally conscious.

Ms. Clark goes on to say that because of the herculean efforts of the environmental group, “Beyond Coal,” coal terminals up and down the Pacific Coast have been successfully shut down.

As you may know, over the past five years, every proposed coal export facility on the West Coast of the United States has been rejected or withdrawn, typically as a result of ecological or environmental concerns. . . . Oregon, Washington, and California have all made significant commitments to eliminate the use of coal as a source of electricity for their citizens. In fact, in August 2016, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed Bill 1279 that banned the provision of any state transportation funding for new coal export terminals.”

Still, as America’s “friend and trade partner,” the Canadians were willing to “assist” the dirty coal industry and allow it to use its ports. That is what “friends and trading partners” do instead of pressing the environmental and climate issue. But Trump has shown the Canadians, and the rest of the world, that with him there is no such thing as a ‘’friend and trading partner;” just underlings obliged to acquiesce to his dictates with a smile on their collective faces.

What Ms. Clark is saying on a fundamental level is that America’s coal industry desperately needs Canada’s “friendship and cooperation” to stay in existence. It was something Canada was willing to provide despite it is contrary to Canadian efforts to save the environment and put the brakes on global climate change.

As she noted, because of a dearth of American coal export terminals, Canada stepped up and allowed 6.2 million tons of U.S. thermal coal to flow through the Port of Vancouver on its way to Asia last year alone. And as friends and trade partners they fully intended to increase that number in the future; something that certainly will not happen due to Trump’s attack on Canada’s timber industry.

According to the policy director of the Seattle, Washington’s Sightline Institute, Eric de Place:

In trying to land a blow on the Canadian timber industry. Trump may have accidentally knocked out the Western coal industry. In the context of how bad off [U.S. mines in the Powder River Basin] are, this could be what brings them to their knees.”

As Paul Rauber noted writing for the Sierra Club, “the closure of Canadian ports will be especially damaging to Cloud Peak Energy, which does most of the shipping out of Canada.”

Trump has portrayed himself as the coal industry’s champion and regularly surrounds himself with so-called miners he pledged to elevate as billionaires with more jobs because he’s Trump. However, the coal miners, and the coal industry, are all aware that their dying and bankrupt industry is succumbing to mechanization, cheaper and abundant natural gas, and readily abundant and free renewable energy sources. It is the ultimate example of good old capitalism Republicans promote as the be all, end all, and there is no amount of Trump orders and dictates that will change that inconvenient truth.

This is Trump’s gross incompetence and ignorance on full display and it will adversely affect the people he claims are damned fortunate he is in the White House. But he made a serious error in provoking Canada with an ill-advised first strike in a trade war with “our friends and trade partners” to the North. Despite his fallacious claim that President Obama’s environmental and climate change policies was a “war on coal,” Trump has single-handedly initiated the real war on coal.

h/t /SierraClub