President Trump on Tuesday night celebrated his administration’s success in implementing its “energy dominance” agenda.
“We have ended the war on American energy, and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal,” Trump declared during his first State of the Union address. “We are now proudly an exporter of energy to the world.”
The U.S. is now a net producer of natural gas because of the shale oil and natural gas boom that began during the Obama administration and has transformed the country into the world's leading fossil fuel producer.
In addition, the U.S. is expected to experience "explosive growth" in oil production in 2018 and will surpass Saudi Arabia's output for the first time, the International Energy Agency reported this month.
Former President Barack Obama in 2015 signed a law passed by Congress ending a 40-year-old ban on oil exports.
But the U.S. remains a net importer of crude oil. Overall, the U.S. still imports more energy than it exports, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The Trump administration has promoted “energy dominance” by taking a lighter touch to regulation, and used its first year to scrap or delay a number of Obama-era regulations targeting industry to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants that most scientists say drive man-made climate change.
He has announced his intent to leave the Paris climate change agreement in 2020. His administration has also repealed the Clean Power Plan regulation on carbon emissions from existing power plants that underpinned the international climate accord.
Coal has seen its prospects improve modestly during Trump’s first year. Driven by exports, U.S. coal production increased by 6 percent last year.
There was a one percent increase in U.S. coal mining jobs last year, to more than 50,000, a response to increased demand from Asia, mostly China, for metallurgical coal used in steelmaking, experts say.
But despite the growth in exports, U.S. coal consumption declined by 2.4 percent in 2017, falling to its lowest level since 1982. Coal’s portion of the electricity generation mix, which was near 50 percent a decade ago, is projected to fall below 30 percent this year, the EIA said.
It’s unclear what Trump means when he references “clean coal.” Energy experts generally interpret it to mean coal plants that capture the carbon dioxide emitted from power plants and store it underground as a way of limiting its impact on global warming.
Carbon capture and storage technology removes carbon dioxide from a power plant's exhaust, so as to not release it into the atmosphere. The carbon can be cooled and injected as a liquid underground. Some technologies can use the captured carbon for other energy uses.
The concept has not been widely deployed, mostly because of the high cost to retrofit a coal plant for the technology.
Experts have said the Trump administration could do more to support bipartisan legislative proposals introduced in Congress to help fund carbon capture deployment.