Despite the fact that the coal industry employs fewer people than J.C. Penney, Donald Trump has spent a significant amount of time ensuring the country that he’ll bring coal jobs back. Coal power and jobs have been a major part of his platform, but for many it’s hard to understand why. Why does he continue to focus on a dying, dirty industry quickly being replaced by solar power? Thankfully, John Oliver is here to explain “Cocaine for Thomas the Tank Engine” for all of us not in the know.
The clip begins with footage from a Donald Trump rally where the president puts on a too-small miner’s helmet and pantomimes what he thinks coal miners do all day. Apparently they … shovel coal? Oliver points out the absurdity of a man who’s likely never spent a single day performing hard labor impersonating a coal miner. Oliver compares it to a child playing store, which still might be giving Trump too much credit.
Of course, all of this rhetoric is pointless if Trump can’t actually create more jobs in the coal sector, right? Well, thankfully—according to Trump’s EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt—there have been 50,000 new jobs since the fourth quarter of 2016. That’s amazing, but also off by about 48,000 jobs. Yes, there have only been 1,300 new jobs created. Shockingly, Trump’s administration is lying.
What really makes the clip worth watching, though, is Oliver’s nuanced look at the coal industry as a whole. It’s not just regulations that are killing coal, it’s also alternative energy, increased automation and lessened consumption. In fact, the solar energy industry now employs more workers than coal, but not where coal miners actually live. Entire towns were built around the coal industry, and now they’re dying out alongside the industry’s decline. These people don’t want or need coal jobs: they need jobs, period.
Oliver’s intent isn’t to belittle coal miners or disparage their industry. Instead, he attempts to provide actual, real solutions to a difficult issue that is deeply personal for many American workers. Trump and coal companies claim the issue is regulations when, in reality, the issue is just technological progress and shifting needs. These people need new jobs in a new industry, not an opportunity to limp along in a dying field.
Watch the entire hilarious, informative clip above.