WASHINGTON (CNN) — As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to revive the coal industry.
However, across America, more and more coal-fired smokestacks are smoke free.
The power plants beneath them are cold and dark.
The mines that once fed them; abandoned.
But for the past couple of years, miners and their families let themselves believe that a coal comeback was on the way, thanks to promises from Trump.
“He’s trying to get their votes. He isn’t telling them the truth,” coal mining consultant Art Sullivan told CNN.
For 52 years, Sullivan worked in, and consulted on, mines around the world and he bristles every time he hears the president claim to be the savior of coal.
“And that really disturbs me because these are really good people. These are the people that I have spent my life working with. And if they have the truth they will make the right decisions,” said Sullivan
Former coal miner Blair Zimmerman says he thinks Trump gave communities false hope.
“In my opinion– absolutely. I mean, I’m an expert. He’s not. Like when he was campaigning I asked– I talked to his people and I said what’s your plan. How are you bringing back coal? Because it could be brought back if these plants would come back up and deregulating stuff will help this much it’s not going to help a lot.”
Trump’s EPA, now led by former coal lobbyist in Andrew Wheeler, recently moved to lift Obama-era caps on how much poisonous mercury and how much heat-trapping carbon power plants can pump into the sky, which really worries climate scientists like Penn State’s Michael Mann.
“We’re already experiencing impacts of climate change that could have been avoided had we acted two decades ago when we knew already at that point that there is a problem,” Mann told CNN.
In order to save life as we know it Mann says rich countries need to be on carbon free electricity by 2030 which means 80 percent of current coal reserves need to stay in the ground.
“I think there’s enough resilience in the system that we can withstand one term one — one four year term of Donald Trump. I’m not sure we can withstand two,” said Mann.
He’s among the chorus calling for an energy revolution and arts knows a few folks who might be able to pitch in.
“If you spent several years working in coal mines, you’re going to come to understand electricity, hydraulics, mechanics, geology, I see no limitation on the average coal miner’s ability to transition into any other field,” said Sullivan.
But first they need leaders willing to transition to the truth.