Coal executive Bob Murray on Tuesday railed against “government interference” in energy markets, calling for an end to tax credits for the wind energy industry. Speaking at the Politico Pro Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., Murray, the head of U.S. coal producer Murray Energy, said “we need to let the markets work.”
Murray’s criticism of tax credits for wind farms appears to be the height of hypocrisy — Murray is a coal industry executive who has repeatedly urged the Trump administration to bail out the coal industry.
In response to the coal baron’s pleas, President Donald Trump directed the Department of Energy (DOE) last month to create a plan to force grid operators to buy electricity from coal and nuclear plants at risk of retirement, effectively keeping those failing power plants afloat.
“I believe that the Trump administration is doing all they can and have” to save the coal industry,” Murray said Tuesday’s summit. Despite Trump’s efforts, though, “politically correct” electric utilities he said are still shifting their generation fleets away from coal.
After eight years of efforts by the Obama administration reduce pollutants from power plants, he continued, utilities “got into a pattern” of complying with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules and now “they have no desire to change that.”
In his comments, Murray claimed the nation’s electric grid has a reliability problem, despite Trump’s own Energy Department releasing a report in August 2017 that concluded “the power system is more reliable today due to better planning, market discipline, and better operating rules and standards.”
Murray’s calls on Tuesday to “get the government out” of interfering with the energy industry stand in contrast to his comment made at a New York City conference in April. At that time he told Energy Secretary Rick Perry he “has to approve” an emergency bailout for coal and nuclear plants in order to “ensure the resilience, reliability, and security of the grid.”
Along with following Murray’s advice on a coal bailout, the Trump administration installed a top lobbyist for Murray Energy as acting head of the EPA after Scott Pruitt resignation on July 5. Andrew Wheeler earned more than $3 million lobbying for Murray Energy over an eight-year period before joining the agency earlier this year.
Murray said Tuesday that he hopes Wheeler eventually gets the “acting” removed from his title and becomes the permanent EPA administrator. He also called Wheeler a “solid guy” who “cares about the environment.”
“Didn’t want to lose him,” Murray said. “But the country has him.”
Can't eyeroll hard enough w/o hurting myself at Bob Murray claiming his opposition to #renewable energy is concern for low-income single mothers. 🙄 And you'd think a guy with an oxygen tank would care a little more about air quality. @POLITICOLive #ProSummit pic.twitter.com/vYeXF2gT6h
— Liz Westbrook (@LizEB13) July 17, 2018
Mary Nichols, who heads the California Air Resources Board and sat on the same panel as Murray at the summit, said she was scheduled to meet with Wheeler on Tuesday to discuss California’s vehicle fuel economy standards. The state has a exemption under the Clean Air that lets it set its own standards. But Trump’s EPA is expected to try to undo that exemption.
The Trump administration and California have held talks on auto emissions standards but reportedly have made little progress on a deal that would allow California to keep its stricter standards.