Flashback 2008: Obama Promised To ‘Bankrupt’ Coal Companies

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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It’s an odd coincidence that the same day President Barack Obama unveils regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. a major coal company announces it is going bankrupt. In 2008, Obama said his energy policies would “bankrupt” anyone who wants to build a coal plant.

“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” Obama said during a 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board.

“Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad,” Obama said in 2008. “Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to, uh, retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.”

Interestingly enough, the day Obama announced EPA regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants the coal company Alpha Natural Resources filed for bankruptcy. The EPA’s regulations, called the Clean Power Plan, are expected to retire upwards of 90 gigawatts of coal-fired power generation in the coming years, reducing demand for coal and forcing mines to shutter.

Alpha’s bankruptcy signals a tough road ahead for coal companies, reports Bloomberg News, as EPA greenhouse gas regulations take effect. Bloomberg reports that while “Alpha turns its attention inward, its peers are bracing for a fight.” One company, Murray Energy, plans to file suit against the EPA’s rules, saying it “will adversely restructure the electric power system in America and will force every State to radically change their energy policies.”

“The change and challenges the U.S. coal industry has experienced over the last several years are greater than any in the past three decades,” Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield said in a statement. “There is no doubt more uncertainty ahead, but also transformational opportunity in the coal sector for those who make proactive, strategic decisions.”

Alpha’s bankruptcy was brought on by market and regulatory forces pushing more utilities to increase use of natural gas. “Coal companies took on debt around 2011, when Chinese demand pushed prices up globally,” reports Bloomberg, which “has wound down since then, taking coal prices with it, and coal companies like Alpha Natural Resources are left holding the bill.”


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