Donald Trump made outsized promises to residents of Bettyville, Kentucky, as well as other depressed coal country towns. Some 80 percent of the residents voted for him. But now that he’s in office, will Trump deliver on desperately needed jobs?
During the campaign, he promised to allow unlimited production of fossil fuels and put coal miners back to work.
For the first time, many Beattyville residents felt a presidential candidate was talking directly to them. They’re waiting anxiously for Trump to deliver. But can he?
Fossil fuel production is determined by global supply and demand, which a president has little control over.
Coal was once used mainly to generate electricity. But natural gas, which is cheaper, cleaner burning and just as abundant in the United States, has become the fuel of choice in power plants.
Plus, Trump is also promoting more oil drilling, which directly competes with coal.
Beyond that, the economics just don’t add up.
Right now, prices are determined by OPEC, the cartel of oil producing nations. Although they agreed to cut production this year to bolster prices, the move so far has had little effect.
Unless oil prices rises above $80 a barrel, tar sand production and fracking aren’t economical. Right now, oil sells for about $54 a barrel on world markets.
Higher prices, however, will mean higher costs for fuel oil and gasoline.
Beattyville residents also talked about the need to increase the minimum wage, which is around $11 an hour in Kentucky. Many residents say they work two jobs and 60 hours a week just to make ends meet.
In a town where 54 percent of the population lives below the poverty level, federal food stamps are a staple of many families. But Republicans in Congress are determined to cut benefit programs, including food stamps.
Still, most residents remain hopeful. That’s all they have left.
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