Cracks are showing up in the U.S. coal industry’s opposition to the Paris agreement, with industry giants like Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, and Cloud Peak Energy looking for the country to keep its place in the global climate deal to extract new concessions and subsidies.
The three companies “indicated in recent meetings with White House officials that they would not publicly object to sticking with the international accord, particularly if the administration can secure more financial support for technology to reduce pollution from the use of coal,” Politico reports, citing industry and Trump administration sources. Their emerging plan faces opposition from the likes of Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, and mirrors “the broader split within the administration over the global climate deal.”
The disagreement showed up briefly during a conference call last Monday among members of the U.S. National Mining Association. “Amid a discussion about the possibility that the U.S. may not withdraw from the Paris agreement, Murray lobbyist Andrew Wheeler underscored the company’s opposition to the accord,” Politico recounts. Wheeler, a former assistant to climate-denying Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), is expected to receive Donald Trump’s nomination as deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
“That any coal companies are considering giving their tacit approval to staying in the Paris agreement marks a significant shift,” writes Politico energy specialist Andrew Restuccia. “Many coal companies have long been wary of the accord. But the World Coal Association, which includes Peabody among its members, has said it sees the agreement as an opportunity to get more financial support for technologies to cut coal emissions, especially since developing countries are still so reliant on the fossil fuel.”
The industry’s emerging position is in stark contrast to the reaction from Brian Ricketts, Secretary-General of the European Association for Coal and Lignite (Euracoal), in the days following the Paris Agreement.
The industry “will be hated and vilified, in the same way that the slave traders were once hated and vilified,” Ricketts wrote at the time in a notice to members. “You might be relieved that the agreement is weak. Don’t be….Fossil fuels are portrayed by the UN as public enemy number one.”