CEO issues hysterical warning in attempt to save dying coal industry

Fear-mongering Murray Energy CEO: Bail out coal or grandma will “die on the operating table."

Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray during Crandall Canyon mine disaster in Utah, August 11, 2007. CREDIT: Spencer Weiner/L.A. Times via Getty Images
Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray during Crandall Canyon mine disaster in Utah, August 11, 2007. CREDIT: Spencer Weiner/L.A. Times via Getty Images

Coal baron Bob Murray issued a hysterical warning Tuesday: If U.S. coal power generation drops much further, “people are going to die in the dark.”

The founder, chairman, president, and chief executive of Murray Energy, America’s “largest underground coal mining company,” was speaking to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) summit of energy executives and investors in Manhattan.

Coal power's long-term decline in the U.S.
Coal power's long-term decline in the U.S.

Murray offered an apocalyptic vision if coal’s share of U.S. generation drops below 20 percent in some regions: “We have the responsibility in this room to make sure grandma doesn’t die on the operating table.”

But this claim is nonsense even if we set aside the obvious fact that hospitals have back-up power systems to handle occasional power outages — and If we set aside the fact that burning coal kills thousands of people a year in this country.

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Great Britain, for instance, has slashed coal use to a mere 7 percent of power generation — and it has managed to keep people from dying in the dark.

Great Britain electricity mix. CREDIT: Quartz using data from National Grid and Elexon
Great Britain electricity mix. CREDIT: Quartz using data from National Grid and Elexon

And the UK has more reliable and higher quality power than the U.S. does, according to independent analysis. No wonder the UK government recently established rules to shut down its remaining coal plants by 2025.

The truth is that coal is on the decline in more and more countries because it simply is not economically competitive with cleaner energy — even without considering the harm to human health and the climate from the dirtiest of energy sources.

Since half of U.S. coal plants lost money last year, Murray has been an outspoken proponent of a multi-billion-dollar bailout for coal plants.

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Murray is also a long-time Trump supporter who has the President’s ear. In fact, the President’s nominee for the number two position at the EPA, Andrew Wheeler, had been a registered lobbyist for Murray Energy. Last year it was revealed Murray had an ‘action plan’ to dismantle environmental policies that was sent to government officials.

A coal bailout appears to be an essential part of Murray’s vision. He told the BNEF summit that he wants to purchase a fleet of coal plants to go with his coal mines.

“It’d be the culmination of my life’s work,” he told the audience. “If you control the fuel supply, you can price it how you want it.”

Murray has a long history of putting profits above people, as HBO’s John Oliver detailed in an extended segment on coal last June, where he called Murray a “geriatric Dr. Evil”.

Murray sued Oliver for defamation. In February, Oliver announced on his show that a judge threw out the case.

But in the end, what Murray and Trump are trying to do is no laughing matter, since bailing out coal and undermining clean energy will harm millions of Americans and destroy a livable climate.