Speaking at a charity dinner for veterans in West Virginia Tuesday evening, President Trump said coal is the best source of energy for national security because it can survive a bomb.
“You know, you bomb a pipeline, that’s the end of the pipeline. With coal, that stuff is indestructible,” Trump said to applause and laughter.
“You can move it around on a truck, you can dump it at the plant, you can do whatever the hell — you can rain on top of it for a long time. Right Jim?,” Trump continued, addressing Gov. Jim Justice (WV-R), a coal mining tycoon. “It can rain like crazy. You can do whatever you want — snow, sleet, wind. You just dump it. It’s there. You hit those pipelines, they’re gone, and that’s the end of it.”
“So for national security purposes,” Trump said, “I don’t think people talk about it enough — coal.”
Here's the transcript of the president's West Virginia remarks about how coal is safer than oil from a "national security" perspective, since it's easy to bomb an oil pipeline but coal is "indestructible." pic.twitter.com/ArdthRZp5Q
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) July 4, 2018
Not only would coal mines, coal plants, and coal trains, not survive a bomb, but all of these things are extremely damaging to human health — both for those who work with coal and live near coal. Burning coal also leads to more polluting emissions and dangerous climate change.
Ever since Trump started running for president he has touted his support for the coal industry. In his first State of the Union address, he proclaimed that his administration’s policies have “ended the war on clean coal.”
Then in June, the Department of Energy was directed 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. According to a leaked memo obtained by Bloomberg, the Energy Department should establish a “Strategic Electric Generation Reserve” with the goal of promoting national defense.
The move had been under consideration for months, with pro-coal politicians like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) urging the president to use federal emergency powers to prevent the closure of coal and nuclear power plants. Some of Trump’s biggest donors — including coal executive and CEO of Murray Energy, Bob Murray — have also pushed for the move.
In March, utility company First Energy urged Energy Secretary Rick Perry to invoke a Cold War-era law in order to help revive its coal and nuclear plants, along with other companies’ plants located in the eastern United States, by declaring an “emergency” in the power industry.
As more power plants retire, regulators have been working to determine how best to ensure the country’s power system can withstand potential damages from extreme weather or cyber-attacks.
The Trump administration has long argued that coal and nuclear power plant retirements pose a threat to the stability of the U.S. electric grid; plants have been retiring in record numbers over the past few years.
But a leaked draft of a report commissioned by Perry last year found that these retirements were the result of a decline in electricity demand and cheaper natural gas. It also found that coal and nuclear power plants closing down did not pose a threat to the stability of the grid.
Despite Trump’s assertion Tuesday night that coal can withstand any kind of weather, Gov. Justice and two coal companies owned by his family are currently embroiled in a legal battle over alleged breaches of agreements with a Pennsylvania coal marketing and logistics company.
Among the allegations is that of one Justice’s companies wasn’t able to deliver on a coal contract due to “a force majeure event (heavy rainfall)” which caused an impoundment to shut down, “impacting the processing and loading of coal.”