Considering that the coal industry employs just over 50,000 Americans—and that the entire industry’s prospects for growth are smaller than those of a single company, Tesla, making cars that don’t directly consume fossil fuels at all—Donald Trump has been bewilderingly fixated on getting out-of-work coal miners their old jobs back. It’s obvious that Trump’s emphasis is more a matter of politics than economics, the same way that pitting Pittsburgh against Paris as a rationale for pulling out of the climate accords has more to do with the historic image of Pittsburgh as a blue-collar steel town than its present-day reality as an eco-conscious city whose residents voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. But even so, as John Oliver pointed out on Last Week Tonight, Trump’s coal-pushing platform represents a substantial departure from reality.
First off, Oliver suggested that Trump “needs to stop lying to coal miners.” Even a fossil-fuel magnate like Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray, who blames the coal industry’s falling fortunes on “Barrack Obama and his Democrat followers” admit that the best-case scenario involves stemming the rate of job loss rather than actually bringing jobs back. Contacting Murray Energy for further comment led to what Oliver says was the first cease-and-desist letter in Last Week Tonight history.
Naturally, that threatening C&D has the effect on Oliver that waving a red rag in front of a bull would, but even Oliver stops short of buying into the possibly apocryphal story that Murray has said he got into the coal business after being advised on the matter by a talking squirrel. Good news, though: If Murray had never been spoken to by a talking squirrel before, Oliver and a special guest called Mr. Nutterbutter made sure he can now say in good faith he’s heard it right from the squirrel’s mouth.