Bill Koch latest executive to quit coal, saying it has kind of died

by Joe Smyth

March 17, 2014

Another executive has apparently decided to ditch theshrinking US coal mining industry: Bill Koch, who made billions selling petcoke and coal with his company Oxbow Carbon. Energy and Environment Newsreports:

The coal business in the United States has kind of died, Koch said during a phone interview Friday, so were out of the coal business now.

Bill Koch is the younger brother of notorious oil billionaires Charles and David Koch, and while he has not played a major role infunding climate denialand right wing extremist groups like his brothers, he has used his wealth in other ways to try and protect his fossil fuel business from competition and health, labor, and environmental safeguards. Bill Kochs role in funding attacks on the Cape Wind project was detailed in this2010 report, and more recently hegave millions to super PACsin the 2012 elections to try to defeat President Obama, taking advantage of the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court ruling.

Bill Koch is just the latest executive to leave the coal mining business in recent years. A recentarticlein SNL, a trade publication which closely tracks the coal industry, detailed the departures from several coal companies:

Top executives at several major coal companies have retired or resigned in recent years amid mounting challenges facing the industry. One executive recruitersuggestedto SNL Energy in 2013 that the pressure may be prompting some executives to re-evaluate their futures.

In 2012,Arch Coal Inc.s Steven Leer, the companys CEO since its formation in 1997,announcedplans to retire. LeersaidFeb. 28 that he was retiring as board chairman following Archs annual shareholder meeting in April.

Richard WhitingexitedasPatriot Coal Corp.s president and CEO just before the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012.

In July 2013, metallurgical coal and iron ore producerCliffs Natural Resources Inc.said President and CEO Joseph Carrabbainformedthe companys board of his plans to retire. He had served as president and CEO of the company since September 2006.

In August 2013, coal and gas producerRhino Resource Partners LPannouncedthat CEO and President David Zatezalo was retiring as CEO.

The flurry of retirements has not been limited to the U.S.BHP Billitonannouncedthe retirement of CEO Marius Kloppers in February 2013. Tom Albanesestepped downasRio Tintos CEO in early 2013 following the companys $14 billion write-down on investments.

Thats why Alpha Natural Resources, the third largest US coal mining company, recentlyoffered its top executives $2 million retention bonuses even though the companys stock has lost 92% of its value over the last three years. The values of other publicly traded coal companies have also plummeted Peabodys stock has fallen by 75% since early 2011 , while Arch Coal has fallen 88%.

ANR, ACI, BTU vs Dow since Jan 2011 - 2

The critical question of course is whether the US coal industry will recover from its current kind of dead state, and that will depend in part on the effectiveness of the industrys two main efforts to keep selling its rocks despite competition from cheaper and cleaner energy and growing concerns about the impacts of burning coal on our air, water, and climate. The first is the effort by the coal industry and its allies toweaken or block Clean Air Act rulesthat would reduce carbon pollution from power plants. The second is pushing coal export terminals to expand sales to overseas markets. Since coal is Americansleast favored energy source, the industry usesfrontgroupsand misleading PR efforts for both efforts though even theindustry itself recognizesthat its main messaging strategy never resonated with much conviction among ordinary Americans. For them, the EPA keeps the air and water clean, their kids safe.

Clearly some coal executives are beginning to suspect that more of this same strategy isnt likely to rescue the industry. crossposted from Grist

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