In China's coal country, Shanxi Province, the black stuff is a more than just a source of income — it is a source of identity. Lumps of it are for sale at the national coal museum, in elegant, satin-lined gift boxes. The rest of the coal museum is faded and out of date, much like the city of Taiyuan, where it is located, about 300 miles southwest of Beijing.

On Capitol Hill Thursday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry defended a controversial proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants. "There's no such thing as a free market in energy," he said in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "Governments are picking winners and losers every day."

It was a remarkable statement, coming days after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt derided such tipping of the scales as he moved to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

The Trump administration will scuttle an Obama-era clean power plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, made the announcement in Hazard, Ky., on Monday, saying the rule hurt coal-fired plants.

"The EPA and no federal agency should ever use its authority to say to you we are going to declare war on any sector of our economy," Pruitt said, speaking at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The U.S. power grid could become less reliable if too much electricity comes from renewable energy and natural gas, according to a study from the Department of Energy.

But not everyone is buying it. Environmentalists suspect the Trump administration is just trying to prop up an ailing coal industry.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry called for the study in the spring. The report doesn't say there is a grid reliability problem now — only that one could develop if more coal and nuclear power plants shut down.

Coal has long had a grip on American politics. That's why politicians worry about its fate. They tout the fossil fuel's contribution to the U.S. economy, but lately they've also been trying to find a way to clean up coal's image.

When President Trump signed an order to roll back climate policies, he promised more jobs for coal miners.

"My administration is putting an end to the war on coal. Gonna have clean coal, really clean coal," Trump said in making the announcement at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters Tuesday.

President Trump signed a sweeping executive order Tuesday that takes aim at a number of his predecessor's climate policies.

The wide-ranging order seeks to undo the centerpiece of former President Obama's environmental legacy and national efforts to address climate change.

It could also jeopardize America's current role in international efforts to confront climate change.

In a symbolic gesture, Trump signed the document at the headquarters of Environmental Protection Agency.

From West Virginia to Wyoming, coal country overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump and his message that he will bring coal jobs back. Now, those same voters are eyeing his incoming administration closely, careful to see if he will keep his promises to revive the coal industry and get miners back to work.