The head of one of the largest coal companies in the country is urging President Donald Trump to avoid promising Americans that he can bring back the industry’s glory days.
Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray told reporters Sunday that the coal industry is unlikely to regain the ground it lost during former President Barack Obama’s administration. The Trump-supporting coal tycoon believes Obama’s successor can only help the industry regain some of its luster.
“I’ve suggested to President Trump that he temper his expectations,” Murray said. “He can’t bring them back.”
Murray suggested that environmental regulations and natural gas innovations have walloped coal country. Murray Energy is getting pummeled, he added, because environmental regulations are making coal more expensive than natural gas production.
“Just give me the ball. Get the government out of picking winners and losers. Give us a level playing field, and we can compete with gas all day long,” the veteran coal producer said. Murray also claimed that his Ohio-based company had lost nearly 3,500 employees during the bulk of Obama’s tenure.
The current coal price benchmark is a tick above $50 a ton, or nearly half its level from five years ago, when the top Central Appalachian coal price topped out at nearly $100 a ton.
Several of Murray’s biggest coal competitors faced bankruptcy during the Obama years.
Peabody Energy, for instance, was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last April, joining the likes of fellow coal country gold standards Arch Coal and Illinois-based Alliance Coal, in contemplating drastic measures to pull itself up and out of the muck and mire.
Trump is expected to sign an executive order Tuesday directing his administration to peel back a host of Obama-era environmental actions, including the so-called Clean Power Plan, which was enacted to cut U.S. greenhouse emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025. The executive order would be the president’s first crack at addressing some of the regulations affecting coal production.
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