Where the jobs are from coal — and where they are being shifted to

Two highly anticipated reports on greenhouse gas emissions published Thursday by U.S. environmental officials offered a portrait of the health risks from climate change — and the opportunities for growth from it.

The Trump administration found that coal use has been relatively stable in the past 10 years, but the documents offer insights into the state of the sector, where for decades every dollar of investment meant jobs in the form of mining. Here are some of the observations that federal officials laid out in the energy sector:

Job numbers

While a steady flow of new coal-fired power plants have been cancelled or are under construction, the bulk of coal-mining jobs have been in the coal industry, according to the document released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Climate risks

The deep cuts in coal use that Trump has promised have largely not materialized, and the document stressed that the “competitiveness of coal generation is on the decline,” as residential and commercial power use in the United States as a whole has fallen over the past decade.

“We have to continue to find ways to expand how coal is being used,” Steven Kerekes, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said in an interview.

Natural gas

To make up for continued declines in coal consumption, emissions from both coal and natural gas have been rising, but the emissions of coal has risen most, according to the document, which notes that coal use is leveling off.

“For the first time in three decades, power has reached a point where coal use is approaching parity with natural gas,” the document said. “Several factors are spurring this new equilibrium.”

An app

Business groups said that the documents also showed that using information technology to reduce coal consumption could be a cost-saving strategy. The platform that tracks coal production and consumption could be a valuable resource for U.S. companies to glean information on what fuel is burning at its various sources.

“There are creative ways that can be done to get data that can actually improve the efficiency of things like transportation and operations and maintenance,” said Mark Soucy, a lawyer at the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Coal in the future

“You’re going to see coal being used over the course of the next 25 years; it’s just a question of how much and how cleanly it is used,” Kerekes said. But he said he didn’t see the scope of the coal production in the United States transforming significantly in the foreseeable future.

What is happening internationally

The recent return of coal production to Australia has been bad news for environmentalists in the United States, but the document gave insight into where the bulk of the production is moving around the world. China, for example, accounted for 45 percent of the total, followed by the United States at 14 percent and Russia at 14 percent.

“The data we have, obviously, are drawn from a U.S. perspective,” Soucy said. “The fact is, even if there were no U.S. coal, there would still be coal supply.”

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