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Government partnership key to ensuring coal survival, says industry advocate

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Government partnership key to ensuring coal survival, says industry advocate

FormerPeabody Energy Corp.executive Fred Palmer called for a stronger partnership with the U.S.government to ensure "21st century coal" in the post-electionlandscape, during a talk July 12 sponsored by the American Coal Council.

Palmerpushed for greater federal support for coal technologies that will allow loweremissions from power generation to ensure industry longevity. "Inall of this, technology is key, and the way forward for coal and a partnershipwith the United States of America is required in this space, just as wind andsolar have partnered with the U.S. in getting where they are today, taking awaymarket share from coal," Palmer said.

Aftercovering the familiar themes of energypoverty and the need to consider the "human environment"just as much as the natural environment as ways to support continued coal useat home and abroad, Palmer called for increased support from federal agenciesto develop coal technologies to lower emissions.

Citingdata compiled by the National Coal Council, Palmer argued the currentadministration has overwhelmingly supported renewable energy efforts with muchless support for technologies like carbon capture and storage.

Specifically,the former Peabody executive called for increased tax credits from Congress andfrom whatever party assumes control of the executive branch after the Novemberelection. Palmer previouslytold S&P Global Market Intelligence that a Republican White House andleadership willing to repeal the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan wouldbe the most beneficial for the coal industry.

However,during his presentation to the ACC, he insisted that those events would not beenough to ensure 21st century coal. Instead, U.S. coal will need to forge a "proactivepartnership" with the government to work toward what he sees as "policyparity."

Theissue of policyparity regarding coal-related projects like CCS has been addressed by bothindustry advocates and policy makersover the last year. In November 2015, a draft copy of a new report from a teamappointed by U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz — himselfappointed by President Barack Obama — laid out a potential policy pathway to "levelthe playing field" for such projects.

Palmerwarned that it will be difficult to pursue these efforts, noting, "It'sbeen said many times before — if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."Still, he insisted it was vital to ensuring coal has a place in the country'senergy future.

"Youcannot sit here and say we're going to beat the Clean Power Plan in court andwe're going to have a Republican regime that pulls back the plan — both ofthings can happen, but that doesn't mean coal advances," Palmer said.

Accordingto Palmer, the industry needs to enter 2017 with a "bipartisan cooperativeapproach."

Despitehis advocacy for aRepublican win in November and insisting that the current Democratic Partyplatform offered little support for coal's future, Palmer said the vicepresidential selection of presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton could providesome relief for industry supporters.

Specifically,Palmer pointed to the possible selection of Virginia's Democratic junior Sen.Tim Kaine and Ohio's Democratic senior Sen. Sherrod Brown as possible alliesfor the industry, at least in terms of support for technology that wouldprolong the life of U.S. coal.

Sufferingfrom a prolonged downturn, coal has found a place in the 2016 election cycle,most notably after coal advocates seized on comments made by Clinton, regarding the future of thesector. The comments, which spurred widespread backlash among industryadvocates, have been often cited by critics of Clinton as a reason to worryabout her position on coal.

FredPalmer is a partner in the public affairs firm Total Spectrum/Steve Gordon andAssociates.