After years of taking their place among the fossil fuel funders of campaigns to deny and discredit climate science, three coal industry leaders have changed their views and say they want to be a part of the solution, the New York Times reports.
“We can’t turn back time,” Richard Reavey, vice president for public affairs at Cloud Peak Energy, told the paper. “We have to accept that there are reasonable concerns about carbon dioxide and climate, and something has to be done about it. It’s a political reality, it’s a social reality, and it has to be dealt with.”
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To that end, the Times says, Cloud Peak, along with Peabody Energy and Arch Coal—the three biggest coal companies in the United States—are “going so far as to make common cause with some of their harshest critics, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Clean Air Task Force. Together, they are lobbying for a tax bill to expand government subsidies to reduce the environmental impact of coal burning.”
The companies argue that “the steady gains of renewable energy are not sufficient to stabilize the climate and still meet energy needs in the years to come.” Reasoning “that coal and other fossil fuels will still dominate the fuel mix for the next several decades,” the companies want public subsidies for the capture of carbon from fossil fuel emissions, and its sequestration away from the atmosphere (CCS).
Only that, the coal executives argue, “can meaningfully shift the world to a low-carbon future.” The Times adds that “their argument is backed, at least in part, by many world energy experts and environmentalists.”
The argument is also disputed. Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently reported that if coal generation with CCS is expanded in Australia, as that coal mining country’s government is promoting, it would be the most expensive possible electricity option for its consumers.
Meanwhile, the World Future Council concluded in 2014 that, “contrary to many arguments, case studies demonstrate that a 100% [renewable] target is technically achievable in any country or jurisdiction.”
And just last November, Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Department of Global Ecology at Stanford, observed of an all-renewable energy supply: “I think the answer only a few years ago was maybe. Now the answer is clearly yes.”