Just How Out of Touch Are Coal Execs?

In addition to being climate enemy number one, the burning of coal is responsible for some pretty dire health problems. And as we all witnessed last week, it’s a dangerous business to be in, one where the pursuit of profit is often put above the safety of workers. But if you think that makes coal company executives at all conciliatory in their public engagement tone, you don’t know coal company executives very well.

Several coal execs were grilled by the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming this week and, from the reports I’ve read, they didn’t let reality impinge one iota on the nature of their testimony.

Peabody Energy Corp. CEO Greg Boyce seems especially out of touch. According to the New York Times, he expressed the opinion that in order to make carbon capture and sequestration technology a reality, “the federal government should assume responsibility for carbon storage and fund emissions reductions research.” In other words, companies like Peabody may be creating the problem, but Boyce wants the government to pay for the cleanup.

But of course, Boyce is ready and willing to do everything in his power to make sure he’s part of the solution, right? Scientists tell us that emissions need to peak by 2015 to avoid runaway climate change, surely Boyce gets that? You might be surprised to learn: No, he doesn’t. He told the committee that CCS technology could be ready for commercial-scale use “sometime in the 2020s.”

Apparently Boyce is completely comfortable with doing nothing about his industry’s emissions until well after we’d all be well and truly screwed by catastrophic global warming. Defying all logic and commonsense, he even told the committee that Congress shouldn’t pass climate legislation to regulate emissions until CCS technology is ready to go.

So to recap: Boyce wants someone else to take care of his company’s emissions, and in the meantime they should just leave him alone so he can keep raking in the millions unimpeded while they work on it. This is just stunning logic, about equal to a guy getting paid big bucks to smoke in a crowded restaurant who not only insists on continuing to smoke despite being presented with evidence of how bad second hand smoke can be for the other patrons, but wants the restaurant to figure out how to make his smoking inoffensive rather than taking responsibility for his own actions.

But the out-of-touch award for the week definitely has to go to Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who once told a crowd at an anti-union rally that efforts by “Washington politicians” to regulate the safety of mines is “as silly as global warming.” Not surprisingly, this is the same guy who just a few years earlier had urged the managers of his mines to ignore safety regulations right before two miners died in an accident in 2006.

And I bet the friends and family of the 29 miners who died in one of Blankenship’s mines last week — a mine with such an egregious safety record that it was evacuated by order of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration more than 60 times since the beginning of 2009, and still has “serious problems” that have not been addressed since the explosion — don’t agree that mine safety is really all that silly.

I wonder if Blankenship thinks the two lawsuits filed against his company in the wake of the disaster, one by the widow of a deceased miner, the other by a shareholder group, are silly too.

There’s nothing we can do about his backward views on global warming, but Don Blankenship should pay for his criminal negligence of his workers’ safety. You can join the call for his arrest on the charges of murder by joining this Facebook group. Or sign this petition right here on Change.org to demand stronger penalties for mine safety violations so that no matter how silly fat cat CEOs like Blankenship might think it is, they’re still held accountable for ensuring their workers’ safety.

Image credit: net efekt

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