Trump caught between coal and a hard place on budget

US President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office in January. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the pillar’s of President Donald Trump’s campaign was revitalizing the United States’ struggling coal industry.

But as his administration works to shrink the federal budget, while meeting pledges to grow military spending and spur a massive nationwide infrastructure build out, coal interests are growing worried.

The CEOs of the nation’s three largest coal companies, Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and Cloud Peak Energy, along with the United Mine Workers of America, sent a letter to the White House last week pressuring him not to cut the budget of the Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy Office.

“In light of recent calls for dramatic cuts to the federal budget, we want to stress that every dollar
allocated to fossil energy research is an investment in the long-term future of America’s coal and
fossil fuel industry,” the letter reads.

Earlier this year The Hill reported the Trump administration was preparing a budget that would cut spending by $10.5 trillion over the next decade, with substantial cuts coming from the Departments of Energy and Commerce.

The cuts were reportedly based on a spending plan written by the the conservative Heritage Foundation, which calls for eliminating the Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy – along with the Office of Electricity and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

One of the primary forces behind the development of hydraulic fracturing, the Office of Fossil Energy is currently working on developing carbon capture technology for coal-fired electricity plants, like the project underway at NRG Energy’s Petra Nova project outside Houston. Such technology is considered critical for the coal industry, as governments worldwide push the energy sector to dramatically cut carbon emissions to combat climate change.

“With targeted federal investments in R&D, carbon capture technology can be cost competitive in the same way that has been done with wind and solar power. We need to level the playing field for our coal and fossil fuel resources,” the letter reads.

Other signatories on the letter included Newton Jones, international president of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers;  Brad Markell, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council; and Jay Faison, CEO of ClearPath Action, the non-profit lobbying Republican lawmakers to help grow the clean energy industry.