Bush Gets Support from Ohio Coal Producers

Several independent coal producers in the swing state of Ohio say President Bush has been good for their industry and that they fear the effects of a possible Kerry presidency.

“I can’t imagine any other human being in America worse, except maybe that fat guy in the ball cap, than this guy,” said Bob Murray of the Democratic presidential candidate. “Based on the voting records of both John Kerry and John Edwards, they would be a disaster for the affordable, reliable energy needed for the standard of living of every American. Fifty-two per cent of the electricity in America comes from coal, 88% in Ohio.”

Murray owns Murray Energy, the largest independent coal company in the United States.

He said Bush has a generally good record on coal. “I think with the exception of their insidiously flawed regulations related to mercury emissions,” he said, “the Bush Administration has served the national interest in encouraging coal utilization.”

The National Mining Association (NMA), the coal industry trade organization, says Ohio has 90 mines employing 3,761 people. Pennsylvania has 398 mines employing 10,602 people. West Virginia has 413 mines with 24,488 workers. Murray said that 11 other jobs are dependant on each job his company provides (he has 1,000 employees in Ohio).

Michael Puskarich, a principal in a family-owned mining company called Cravat, said, “In my opinion, the Bush Administration totally understands the balance between industry and the environment. I do not believe the Kerry agenda recognizes that.”

Bonnie Huffman, co-owner of the Sands Hill Coal Co., said she was very disappointed when Bush’s energy bill, which Kerry opposed, went down. “If Kerry supports the Kyoto protocol, that would completely do away with coal in the future,” she said. (The Kyoto protocol would sharply cap the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the burning of any fossil fuel.) Huffman said she didn’t trust Kerry to support energy policies that help the coal industry.

NMA spokesman Luke Popovich said both Bush and Kerry now say they support “clean coal technologies.” But Bush supported the energy bill that would have facilitated the use of those technologies, while Kerry opposed it, he said. The bill was defeated on the Senate floor. “Sen. Kerry is supported by a lot of green groups that dislike coal intensely,” he said. “If Sen. Kerry wins, who will he listen to on environmental policy?”

“I don’t think there is much of a choice in this race,” said Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association. “If you look at John Kerry’s record in the Senate, and even before as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, when he battled against coal, we have over 20 years of John Kerry against coal.”

Carey noted that Kerry voted for the McCain-Lieberman bill, designed to cap carbon dioxide emissions and patterned after Kyoto.

“I can speak for our workers, who are primarily supporting the Bush Administration, not just because of energy issues but also because Bush is more supportive of hunting and guns,” said Huffman. Nonetheless, the United Mine Workers union has endorsed Kerry.