PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Talk to coal industry executives and their political allies — and you’d think President Obama and his administration are out to get coal.
“See what they do, they hate coal. They genuinely hate coal. They want to get rid of it,” John Pippy, the CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance told a rally at the state capital last fall.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my frustration and disappointment with President Obama’s war on coal,” PA Rep. Keith Rothfus, a Sewickley Republican, told his House colleagues.
Blaming President Obama for problems in the coal industry has become a rallying cry for many.
“A continuation of the war on coal will only make matters worse, putting thousands and thousands of Americans out of work,” House Speaker John Boehner told a press conference last week.
On Monday, the new U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, was in Pittsburgh, so KDKA money editor Jon Delano him directly.
Delano: “Does President Obama, does the Energy Department have a war on coal?”
Moniz: “We certainly have no war on coal. These terms are tossed about.”
Moniz says coal has had some hard times recently but not because of the administration.
“There clearly was a reduction in coal use for electricity, market-driven. You also know in western Pennsylvania about natural gas, shale gas. And shale gas in the marketplace simply displaced some degree of coal usage,” said Moniz.
Moniz says cheaper natural gas has encouraged many to switch from coal — but he also said government must address coal’s carbon dioxide pollution.
“This is a very serious issue,” he said. “Climate risks demand prudent action.”
Moniz says coal’s survival depends on clean coal technology — something the Energy Department is funding with billions of dollars.
One benefit: coal’s carbon dioxide can be used to extract American oil.
“For coal, being the most intense emitter of carbon dioxide, it’s probably especially important for coal to be part of our energy future,” noted the Energy Secretary.