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Coal gets GOP convention boost but production data shows recovery a ways off

Coalreceived a warm reception from Republicans as their convention got underway inCleveland, though production suggested further industry trouble as earlyreporting for the latest quarter trickled in from the nation's mines.

DonaldTrump, the GOP presidential nominee, has promised to increase energy productionin the U.S., including a pledgeto revive "clean" coal and to "bring those miners back."Trump's sentiments were echoed in the party's official , which they voted to approve asthe week began, and in speeches given by coal country advocates.

WestVirginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito broughtcoal to center stage July 19 at the Republican National Convention, stressingthe need to push back on the Obama administration's "war on coal" inher appeal for a Trump presidency and her sharp criticism of Hillary Clinton.

"Theonly thing we can trust Hillary to do is to double-down on the same failedObama policies that are hurting Americans," Capito said. "We know shewill double-down on an economic agenda that's led to the lowest work forceparticipation in decades. We know that she will double-down on the 'war oncoal.'"

Trump'scoal support could also be found in the selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his runningmate, who provides a lengthy record of supporting the sector and pushing backon Obama administration regulations. Pence's selection garnered strong supportfrom industry advocates and scorn from environmental advocates.

Industryleaders have returned the favor in the form of campaign support. Federalreporting this week showed that the MurrayEnergy Corp. political action committee out $100,000 to a PAC supportingthe Republican candidate in late June.

However,one of Trump's advisors on energy issues warned this week that the beleagueredcommodity could and should face greater market pressure regardless of what theGOP candidate says about its future.

"Ifwe have a wide open free market and the price of coal can't compete with theprice of natural gas and that's what drives coal out of business, well, there'snot a lot you can do about that," North Dakota Republican CongressmanKevin Cramer told S&P Global Market Intelligence on July 15.

Cramerdid add that Trump would focus heavily on rolling back the sort of Obama administrationregulations so often cited by the coal sector as reasons for its recentdecline.

AsRepublicans continued their convention, early reporting from the nation's mostactive mines showed an industry still struggling with weak pricing andoversupply.

Withearly data from thecountry's mines showing a decline for the first half of the year, individualcompanies offered their own signs of weakness as the second quarter ground to aclose.

Outputat Arch Coal Inc.'sBlack Thunder mine, which is one of the nation's largest, fell to the lowestquarterly level of the millennium.

BothMurray Energy and Cloud PeakEnergy Inc. also reported declinesin production for the second quarter, but both also showed signs of outputleveling out following more significant drops in earlier quarters.

Whilethe overall production trended downward this week, there were exceptions.CONSOL Energy Inc.boosted production atits four coal mines by 10.7% in the latest quarter, thanks mostly tosignificant increases at its Harvey and MT-101 facilities.

Thosehoping for some relief from exports found little hope as the global market forU.S. coal continuesto fade.

TheU.S. exported a total of 20.8 million tonnes of coal in the first five monthsof 2016, according to data reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce, withAsian markets continuing to take on less imports this year.

Oakland,Calif. added toexport woes as well this week, confirming a vote to ban a proposed coalterminal in the city.

continuedto navigate the bankruptcy courts this week, winning approval to pay outproperty taxes andtaking on Alpha Natural ResourcesInc.' reorganizationplan over lease contract issues.

Thisweek also saw an end to a comment period for possible action on coal companyself-bonding with a flurry of commentssupporting and lambasting the controversial practice.

Finally,a federal appeals court has again affirmed a lower court's to uphold the U.S. EPA'sdecision to reject a mountaintop removal coal mine permit that would haveallowed one of the largest surface mines in West Virginia.