It’s hard to say the coal industry is in anything but a state of free fall. In the past year, thousands of workers have been laid off, more than half of the country’s major coal companies have filed for bankruptcy and coal production now stands at a 30-year low.
Not surprisingly, the issue is finding a place on the presidential campaign trail. Speaking last week in North Dakota, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised to bring coal back from the brink.
“We’re going to save the coal industry,” he said. “Believe me, we’re going to save it. I love those people. These are great people.”
Trump says he’ll do this by pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate treaty—which reduces the use of fossil fuels like coal—and by scaling back other environmental regulations. But even coal’s staunchest backers say it’ll be hard for the industry to ever return to its peak level of production from a few years ago—even if tougher environmental standards are reversed.