When Donald Trump was running for president, he talked a lot about putting people back to work. And one of the industries he focused on most was the coal industry. He even put on a hard hat and waved around a pick axe to show how much he loved coal.
But there simply aren’t very many coal jobs to be had any more in the U.S. That’s not because of anything Obama did. Coal jobs are decreasing because demand for coal is decreasing, and because machines now do much of the work.
In 1985 the coal industry employed a over 178,000 miners. By 2016, it employed just 56,000.
By contrast, in 2016, wind and solar energy provided more than 6 times the number of jobs as coal. The trend is toward even more jobs in wind and solar, regardless of what Trump does.
Solar energy is exploding worldwide, an almost sixfold increase in just the last 5 years. But America ranks fifth in the production of solar energy, behind China, Germany, Japan and Italy.
If we really want to lead—if we really want to join the New Energy Economy—we have to go with the energy of the future, not the energy of the past. The other option—the one Donald Trump is proposing—leaves us following, not leading.
It’s our choice.
This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.
Robert B. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His film, Inequality for All, was released in 2013. Follow him on Twitter: @RBReich.