Shearer at work in a coal mine, Picture donated by the company Eickhoff Engine Works and Iron Foundry, Bochum. cc 1.2, courtesy Wikipedia

William Koch is NOT Getting out of the Coal Business 

By Roy L Hales

The rumours of William Koch’s departure from the coal business are incorrect.

According to a reporter from E&E, Koch said, “The coal business in the United States has kind of died, so we’re out of the coal business now. Generally, people and businesses try to do the thing that’s most economical. A lot of the profit has gone out of the coal business…. Fortunately, no one got hurt, but if we went back in, it could have killed people, so we’re saying, ‘All right, we’re going to close it.’”

Only according to Koch’s PR person, Brad Goldstein, the closure was never meant to be permanent. The mine is shut down until Oxbow acquires a new long wall and other equipment that was lost in the fire.

This also happens to be what  Mike Ludlow, the President of Oxbow Mining, said when the shut down was first announced:

“We are idling the mine until we are able to install a replacement longwall and other equipment,” Ludlow stated. “We are working on the engineering and procurement of a replacement longwall and other equipment as quickly as possible.”

In that same article, it states:

It’s expected the mine shutdown, however temporary, will have a significant effect on the local economy and Delta County.

The Elk Creek Mine is estimated to have generated $36 million per year in wages and contributed about $90 million annually to the local economy. The average pay for a miner at Elk Creek was two to three times the non-mining average in the region.

“I am deeply concerned about the effect the Elk Creek Mine closure will have on the families supported by this mine as well as the North Fork Valley community as a whole,” State Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, said in a statement.

Far from getting out of the business, Oxbow is continuing to market coal in Europe and Asia.

Goldstein also clarified some other rumours.

Greenpeace reported that there had been 2,000 mining violations at the Elk Creek Mine. Goldstein did not know if the number is accurate, but said if it is, those stats would be over a twenty-five year period.

“The number of our citations is way below the industry average,” he said. “Our worker’s safety is very important to us. We treat every citation seriously.”

Regarding Koch’s much touted opposition to the Cape Wind project, Goldstein said that is mostly Jim Gordon creating publicity. It is true Koch has given the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound a substantial amount of money, but the epic confrontation between these two men is not there.

“The bottom line is that the Cape Wind project is not economically feasible,” Goldstein said. “There is not enough wind for a project like this on Nantucket Sound. Nobody believes in it. The only one promoting it is Gordon and that is because he has all of his money invested in it.”

Asked if Gordon believes in Cape Wind, Goldstein replied, “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him.”

There have also been stories about the Koch brothers  operating in the petroleum coke business. Though it is true they are operating in the same market, Goldstein made it clear they are competitors, not partners.

This may not be the last time I write about William Koch. As you some of are probably aware, he was once into renewable technology. He referred to it in a recent interview with Commonwealth Magazine (CW):

“We at one time were the largest supplier of green energy to southern California. SoCal Edison had on its bill a box that homeowners could check off if they wanted green energy. If they checked the box off, they were then charged an extra 2 cents a kilowatt hour. They would share one cent of that with us. Over 15 years, guess how much green energy I sold to Southern California Edison?”

“How much?” CW asked 

“Zero,” Koch replied. “No one would pay. What that said to me was that California wanted green energy but homeowners didn’t want to pay for it. When it comes down to dollars and cents, people want the cheapest energy possible.” 

I would like to know what motivated Koch to get into renewable technologies, more about  his experience and why he abandoned this sector.

BTW – The William Koch you meet in that CW article is very frank, has a lot of spunk and some intriguing insight.

(Image at top of page: Longwall mining –  Shearer at work in a coal mine, Picture donated by the company Eickhoff Engine Works and Iron Foundry, Bochum. cc 1.2, courtesy Wikipedia)

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