Spring Coal Forum Keynote presents listeners with four choices
A rousing Spring Coal Forum (SCF) keynote speech, given by Dr. Phil Burgess, the founding Executive Director of the American Coal Council (ACC), encouraged listeners to defend the American electricity consumer and the benefits of electrification around the world. Burgess urged the industry to take a stand, recognizing that the war being waged against coal is, in fact a war against the American economy, jobs, and well being. (Click here to download the full text of Dr. Burgess’ speech.)
The American Coal Council’s (ACC) Spring Coal Forum (SCF) is a strategic planning and policy event designed for senior executives in the coal industry. As in the past three years, SCF 2012 was held in March at the SandPearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida. While the focus of the event is always on the industry, policy, new technologies, networking, and personal and professional development, the location of this annual event provides an unparalleled backdrop. One would have trouble finding a more beautiful setting than Florida’s white sand beaches, the sound of the Atlantic Ocean rushing onto the beach, warm sun, and the luxurious SandPearl.
The theme of this year’s event was “The Yin and Yang of Coal,” where the Yin & Yang symbol is representative of the dynamics at play at many levels in today’s global economic, energy and environmental arenas. This year’s Spring Coal Forum program explored the landscape, headwinds and horizons of the coal industry – how these many complementary opposite factors interact within the greater whole of our economic, energy and environmental system.
A key aspect of the event was the ACC’s 30th anniversary celebrations, and the public recognition of the Council’s past presidents. During the celebration, ACC CEO, Janet Gellici introduced each of the Council’s previous Presidents (pictured with Janet Gellici) and thanked them for their insight, effort, and commitment to the ACC over its 30-year history.
With a wealth of information being shared by speakers from across the coal chain, over 175 SCF 2012 attendees had an opportunity to enjoy opening keynote speaker, Robert L. Bradley, Jr., CEO & Founder of the Institute for Energy Research as he discussed his latest book, “Edison to Enron: Markets and Political Strategies.”
Attendees also attended executive briefing sessions on global and domestic coal markets, policy outlooks, natural gas markets, the implications of “junk science” on energy policy, the growing coal export market, CO2 for use in enhanced oil recovery, and restoring environmental science in coal and energy production. Attendees were also invited to attend an industry roundtable briefing, which investigated new dust control technologies being used by the railroad industry.
In the 30th Anniversary Luncheon celebration, author, President of the Annapolis Institute, and Founding Executive Director of the American Coal Council, Dr. Philip M. Burgess presented listeners with a stirring call to the coal industry. telling them they would need to either “sit, fight, join, or run”. Dr Burgess regaled the packed room with stories from the early days of the ACC and his decades of work in energy policy. Drawing from his ample experience, Dr. Burgess noted how similar efforts had been mounted in the past to stop coal – carbon taxes and the Kyoto protocol. However, they had been defeated by maintaining a solid focus on the national interest – “American competitiveness, cost of living,” and the impacts of these policies on “economic growth, and equity.” Burgess asked,
“Why should the US tie one hand behind its back while China, India, Brazil and other rising economic powers were exempted from Kyoto limits – that is, they received a free pass even though these nations were rapidly becoming not just the primary but the overwhelming source of carbon emissions into the global atmosphere.”
Dr. Burgess pressed the attendees to remember the words of Max DePree, that “the first responsibility of a leader is to describe reality.” So, he moved on to describe the reality of the coal industry today, arguing that our industry has been at the foundation of an amazing string of achievements spanning from the massive ramp up of production following the 1973 oil shocks, to providing half of the country’s electricity for years, to providing the (consistently) most reliable and affordable source of energy to the country, all while managing huge successes in reducing environmental impacts. He continued by noting that the industry maintained this high level of performance in the midst of an all out war on coal by special interests, competing fuels, and government officials.
Burgess challenged the industry to strenuously avoid the urge to “join” (something he called the appeasement strategy). He urged that we choose, instead, to stand firm for energy consumers by “insisting on rational cost-benefit analysis of fuel choice pressures” and trumpeting the value of electrification to the U.S. economy. He noted the need to develop more effective means of educating the public, new media platforms as a means to win public support for the “rational power generation choices that preserve our access to reliable and affordable domestic power without the risks that accompany dependence on foreign sources.”
He also pulled back from the concept and term “clean coal.” Burgess described his feelings about the “PR campaigns to make coal warm and fuzzy” as “finger(nails) on a chalk board.” He noted the term diverged from from DePree’s call for leaders to describe reality. Instead he told the listeners that they needed to focus on some realities about coal: it is widely-distributed, plentiful, the least-cost power generation resource, and it is the only resource that can meet our growing electric power needs over the short term. Additionally, he reminded attendees that coal provides hundreds of thousands of jobs, while reducing costs for energy intensive sectors, such as telecommunications, high-tech, and manufacturing – all sectors that give the U.S. “huge competitive advantages”.
Burgess argued forcefully that America’s 600 coal-generating facilities are “a major national asset” that should not be shuttered “before their ‘use by’ date.” Destroying this asset would critically injure the country’s economy and hinder wealth creation. Destroying this asset would amount to “reckless experiments with energy policy that would create unnecessary risks and perhaps pose grave dangers to our supply of reliable and affordable electricity.” He claimed it is now time for a strong coalition of leaders to take on the war against reliable and affordable electricity in America. This coalition will not be able to sit out of the fight. They will not be able to join up with their detractors. They will not be able to run away from the challenges we face. So, the only remaining option will be to take up the fight by educating American consumers about the easy access they have to affordable, reliable electricity, as a result of coal.
(Click here to download the full text of Dr. Burgess’ speech.)