On Wednesday night, Trevor Noah wanted to talk about coal.
“For a hundred years, America has had a love affair with coal,” The Daily Show host explained. “It was the fuel behind America’s electricity. It powered steam trains across the continent and it has been the only acceptable way for white people to do blackface.”
Donald Trump “knew that mining the coal, that’s how you win the Electoral College,” Noah continued, reminding viewers that Hillary Clinton also had a chance to “win over” coal voters, but instead promised to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
Now, Trump is president and, through his new “energy independence” plan, is vowing to roll back Obama-era climate-change regulations and bring back coal jobs that have been lost over the past few decades.
“I know what you are thinking: This is going to be bad for the environment and the air quality, more carbon emissions,” Noah said. “And you know what, you are right, you are right. But what you are not considering is that this is going to be great for the country. Just not the country you are thinking of.”
That’s because, as has been reported since the Trump administration announced its plan, China is now poised to become a global leader in the fight against climate change. “That’s right, President Trump's deregulation is actually going to help China, or as he calls them, ‘Gina,’” the host said.
“If Trump was genuinely trying to keep hard-working Americans employed, I would understand that,” Noah added. “You know, he made the promise. But it feels like he’s just using these coal miners as political pawns. And the only reason I say that is because everyone seems to agree that coal jobs won’t ever come back.”
Noah’s right. Experts say that both automation and the availability of the much cheaper natural gas mean that Trump can’t bring back coal jobs just by eliminating climate-change protections. “Deregulation isn’t going to help. Energy production has moved on,” Noah said. “Coal jobs are like those dads who went out to get cigarettes: They’re not coming back.”
“If Donald Trump was really trying to make America great again, it would be all innovation and progress, because moving the world forward is what America has always been about,” the host said. “Think about it: America went from candles to the light bulb, right? America went from covered wagons to airplanes. Unemployed girls to Instagram models. The point is, progress, and now you want to go back to coal?”