As a 26-year CEO, I can share very special insights to repudiate Mr. Trump’s call for limiting regulations,challenging global warming and a return to coal mining.
Mr. Trump is calling for a moratorium on coal-mining permits, rescinding the Climate Action Plan and the Paris climate agreement.
How the Failure of Film Photography Can Predict Trump’s Futility to Save the Coal Industry
For decades, Kodak’s film business was going strong—yet the industry was headed toward disaster. It was only a matter of time before digital photography would take over, and investing in digital was not a strategy Kodak wanted to develop. Instead, they poured money into other avenues—investing in the technology for taking pictures on mobile phones—but shied away from mass-market digital cameras. Kodak’s refusal to adapt to progress—to understand where the market was headed—is what eventually drove the company into bankruptcy. Through new innovations, the company is now solidly recovering.
There is a fundamental business lesson to be learned here, and it’s one that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump needs to remember as he promises the recovery of jobs for coal miners.
The U.S. coal industry is to cheap natural gas what antiquated photographic film is to digital photography.
The disruption the photo industry experienced as it refused to progress and adapt is a penetrating lesson for coal miners and others to learn from. As film shifted to digital, the companies that succeeded were those that reinvented their businesses and hatched new jobs and opportunities to grow in an otherwise unsustainable future. From this change we also saw many other business opportunities emerge—think Facebook, Google Photos, and Instagram.
So as Trump continues to make unrealistic promises in terms of job recovery for coal miners, he’s demonstrating a refusal to see where the industry is headed. This gives false hope to tens of thousands of despondent Americans who are only being used as pawns in a political attempt to tell them what they want to hear. By denying the laws of modernization and new clean-burning energy opportunities, Trump is setting up this industry for failure.
Just as film photography forever ceded to digital, so too has the decades of decline for the once dominant coal energy source and the industry’s ability to produce jobs.
Facing the facts
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that natural gas will surpass coal in mix of fuel used for U.S. power generation by the end of this year. While coal is on the decline, natural gas is on the rise and the two will meet on their paths moving forward. Further, the EIA states, “Environmental regulations affecting power plants have played a secondary role in driving coal’s declining generation share over the past decade, although plant owners in some states have made investments to shift generation toward natural gas at least partly for environmental reasons. Looking forward, environmental regulations may play a larger role in conjunction with market forces.”
You can’t stop progress, yet that seems to be exactly what Mr. Trump is trying to do. Just as Mr. Trump is also challenging 97% of the world’s top scientists by disparaging global warming as a myth, he’s doing a similar disservice by promising coal will make a comeback. It will not, as the data shows, but there is a lesson for those brave enough to think outside the box.
President Obama, on the other hand, acknowledged the reality of progress, stating “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future,” in his final State of the Union address.
Building the bridge to progress
While it’s important for Mr. Trump to understand where the industry is inevitably headed, real progress doesn’t happen overnight. We can’t simply shut down coal mining because the future outlook is bleak, but rather need to take steps towards the future. This is where we can apply the lessons learned from the fall of the film photography industry.
As someone who was developing film and printing pictures since 1990, I not only experienced the disruption of that industry firsthand, but built a successful business out of it, using Kodak technology and a dedicated team of loyal employees.
When the popular canisters of film faded as the 90s progressed, new memories were digitally produced. Seeing that the coming of digital was inevitable, I saw an opportunity to capitalize on the trend. Recognizing that there are trillions of photographic snapshots fading away from the ravages of time, ScanMyPhotos.com was founded to revisit decades of past pictures and create a gateway to upload analog photographs to all the popular photo-sharing apps. The lessons from my bulk photo-scanning business were recently celebrated as our 300-millionth picture was digitized.
Imagine what the coal industry could do if they decided to embrace the coming change instead of resisting it? The number one priority, of course, would be to preserve value by adopting a strategy for slowing down, and even reversing, growth, while pooling together top talent to brainstorm new ways to move into the transition period.
The change that needs to happen to this industry will not occur by politicians spouting false promises for votes, but by re-calibrating the entrepreneurial passion that built our great nation.
The harmful chemicals used to develop pictures and the smoke from coal burning generators are being eclipsed by environmentally friendly alternatives that will provide more stable jobs to the masses.
We need to focus on positive solutions that work with the coming changes and, from this, we’ll see a whole new generation of jobs and opportunities emerge.
President & CEO
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