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Trump running mate Pence rails against 'war on coal' in VP debate

Republicanvice presidential candidate Mike Pence promised that he and running mate DonaldTrump will free the coal industry from its regulatory burdens if they reach theWhite House, a much-visited theme in the 2016 elections that has divided the GOPand Democrats on energy.

Pencerailed against the Obama administration's "war on coal" four times withinthe first 20 minutes of the vice presidential debate Oct. 4 and vowed to undo a"stifling avalanche of regulations" for the energy sector and other partsof the economy.

In thepast seven years, "We've seen an economy stifled by more taxes, more regulation,a war on coal and a failing health care reform come to be known as Obamacare,"the Indiana governor said. He added that Democratic presidential nominee HillaryClinton and her running mate Tim Kaine want "more of the same" if theyare elected.

Kaine,a former Virginia governor turned U.S. senator, responded by saying a major plankof Clinton's economic growth plan will focus on investment in manufacturing, infrastructureand research into the "clean energy jobs of tomorrow."

The coalindustry's struggles have been a major energy focus of the elections. U.S. coalproduction is down morethan 22% year to date in 2016 in response to competition from more abundant andattractively priced natural gas and new emissions rules for power plants that haveencouraged electric power producers to rely on other energy sources. Trump has saidhe will put coal miners back to work and eliminate federal regulations finalizedduring the Obama administration that he blames for driving the coal market downturn,a goal that could be difficult given the surge in natural gas output from hydraulicfracturing.

Clintonhas meanwhile pushed for large gains in renewable generation and further cuts toU.S. greenhouse gas emissions, including through carbon regulations for the electricpower sector.

BothPence and Kaine largely adhere to their running mates' views on energy. Like Trump,Pence is opposed to the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan designed to reduce carbon emissionsfrom existing power plants. As governor of Indiana, Pence joined more than 20 otherstates in seeking a courtstay of the Clean Power Plan and said Indiana would not comply with the rule evenif the regulation survived court challenges. Pence is also a staunch defender ofthe coal industry, with Indiana one of the biggest coal-producing states in thecountry.

As governorof Virginia, Kaine supporteddevelopment of advanced, cleaner coal power technologies, including subsidiary 'sVirginia City Hybridpower plant, which uses circulating fluidized bed technology to burn coal, wastecoal and biomass. But the vice presidential candidate also backs the Clean PowerPlan and is a proponent of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.