Massey CEO Says Coal-Based Motor Fuel Would Curb U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil

Massey CEO Says Coal-Based Motor Fuel Would Curb U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil

Massey Energy Co. Chief Executive Don Blankenship said the nation needs an energy policy centered on coal, but wholesale changes are needed to mine it safely and competitively.

Blankenship spoke Wednesday at the Bluefield Coal Symposium. The three-day meeting continued Thursday with a presentation by West Virginia’s new mine safety chief, Ron Wooten, in his first public appearance since taking the job. A scheduled discussion of the Sago Mine disaster by federal Mine Safety and Health Administration officials was canceled.

Blankenship told a friendly crowd of more than 100 on Wednesday that converting coal to motor fuel would eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign oil and natural gas. He also said coal-fired electric plants can transform the economies of poor countries and eliminate the economic conditions that cause conflict and terrorism.

“American coal will reduce the need for our young men and women to fight for oil in the Middle East,” said Blankenship, whose Richmond, Va., company, is the nation’s fourth-largest coal company by revenue.

Blankenship said that regulators in coal states such as West Virginia need to change as well.

Instead of passing piecemeal safety laws in response to disasters such as the Sago Mine accident that killed 12 West Virginia miners in January, Blankenship said regulators need a wholesale rewrite of coal laws. And instead of using investigations and fines, Blankenship said regulators should require mine operators to adopt practices that Massey and other companies already are using.

“It might be as simple as reflective clothes,” said Blankenship, who said Massey has long required reflective material even though it is not required by law.

Blankenship said environmental regulation also must change. Lawsuits that slow surface mines or try to recover flood damages from mine operators risk driving customers from West Virginia and Central Appalachian coal to foreign suppliers and other states such as Wyoming and Illinois.

In 50 years, the biggest criticism of today is going to be that society “sterilized” coal reserves by not allowing mountaintop removal mines, Blankenship said.

“There’s so many different items that are accumulating that it’s making us noncompetitive,” he said. “It costs West Virginia businesses a fortune to deal with the regulatory issues.”

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