By Peter Galuszka
A follow up on the “Governor’s Conference on Energy” in Richmond this week.
Yesterday, I attended a session titled “Coal: Rhetoric Versus Reality.” As expected, the “rhetoric” was that of environmentalists and the “reality” was what was presented by two coal company executives and a lobbyist from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. There was another executive from a major coal-hauling railroad, but there were no people unrelated to the coal industry. There were no independent analysts, financial industry experts involved with energy or ecologists.
As noted in a previous blog post, King Coal is in trouble and is muscling up to prevail through several disparate market realities to bash the Obama Administration for what they claim is the “War on Coal.” This conflict has to do with the EPA not going through due process to establish “guidelines” instead of going through the proper procedure of setting up regulations.
As Phil Cavatoni of Alpha Natural Resources put it: “”What they couldn’t get in cap and trade, they were trying to get by regulatory fiat.”
This, in essence, is the heart of the panel’s argument. They did note that gas is very cheap and a strong competitor and that an unusually warm winter hurt demand. The future is China and India. To blame for everything, once again, is government and Barack Obama’s EPA in particular.
They noted that some 36,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity capacity will be shut down by what they claim are new regulations. A few problems here. A good bit of that capacity was on the chopping blocks before any new regs came up since many plants are 40 to 50 years old. Obama’s proposed new rules on carbon dioxide do not affect existing coal-fired plants at all; only new ones.
Of particular note was how the panel dealt with safety. Coal mining is not the most dangerous job, they said and statistics do show that commercial fishing and logging are riskier.
But there was no mention that on April 5, 2010, the worst coal mine disaster in 40 years happened at a mine run by troubled Massey Energy, which Alpha bought in 2011.
I guess according to King Coal (by by extension Gov. Robert F. McDonnell)., the Upper Big branch blast that killed 29 miners never happened. Massey Energy? Never heard of it.