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President Donald Trump, who signed an executive order in January to curtail lobbying influence in government, is expected to name a coal lobbyist as the new deputy administrator to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Murray Energy is the largest coal mining company in the nation and has sued the Obama administration multiple times over environmental regulations.
Wheeler has worked in government before. He was an EPA staffer and a Republican staff member at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where he "worked on every major piece of environmental and energy-related legislation over the last decade, including greenhouse gas emissions legislation, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Clear Skies Act and the Clean Air Interstate Rule," according to his bio at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, where Wheeler is a principal and co-leader of the firm's energy and natural resources practice.
If there's anything that indicates that he's pro-fossil fuels, Wheeler's bio lists him as the VP of the "Washington Coal Club."
Incidentally, Wheeler has also worked with many climate change deniers before. He was an advisor to Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. The snowball-throwing senator thinks environmental regulations kill jobs and just said on Thursday that the EPA is "brainwashing" children.
Sources noted to POLITICO that the decision over Wheeler is not yet final and it could be weeks until a nominee is officially announced.
"We're gonna put the miners back to work," Trump said on the trail. "We're gonna put the miners back to work. We're gonna get those mines open."
The selection of Wheeler further cements the administration's hostility toward the EPA, which stands to lose about a third of its $8.1 billion budget under the president's 2018 budget proposal.
John Coequyt, the Sierra Club's Climate Policy director, has criticized the possible new hire.
"Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt would have picked a chunk of coal for this position if they could have, but Wheeler is the next most toxic option." Coequyt said.
In Elon Musk's "Master Plan Part Deux," he writes, "Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better."Flickr
Musk, who is fully venturing into the renewable energy sector with his proposed SolarCity merger, also brought up the enormous subsidies the coal industry receives. He suggested that both companies compete without any taxpayer help.
"How about we both go to zero?" Musk tweeted.
The beef started when Murray appeared on CNBC's Squawk Box on Monday and accused Tesla of taking $2 billion from taxpayers and yet "has not made a penny yet in cash flow."
"Tesla is a fraud," Murray ranted.
ardent Donald Trump supporter, said that Tesla benefits from subsidies from energy policies supported by Hillary Clinton. According to Murray, the Democratic presidential nominee is "supporting her friends," or wealthy individuals such as Musk, Warren Buffett and the Pritzkers, with subsidies that have "nothing to do with supporting the environment."
Murray then threw in his two cents about coal's effect on climate.
"By the way, you could close down every coal-fired plant in the United States today, and you would not affect the temperature of the Earth at all," he said.
not the first time Musk has attacked fossil fuel subsidies. In May, he urged people "to revolt against the propaganda of the fossil fuel industry which is unrelenting and enormous."
"The fundamental issue with fossil fuels is ... every use of fossil fuels comes with a subsidy," Musk said.
The Tesla honcho said that cheap oil and gasoline prices not only prevent drivers from switching their gas-guzzlers to electric cars, it also deters the fight against climate change.
CNBC pointed out that renewables actually get far more direct federal financial support for electricity production:
"In 2013, electricity production and federal utilities that rely on coal received $1.08 billion in direct cash outlays through federal programs, tax benefits, research and development funding, loans and guarantees, the [Energy Information Administration] found. That amounted to 6 percent of such funding. In the same year, electricity production from renewables received $15.04 billion in funding from the same sources—or 72 percent of federal support of that kind. Wind accounted for about 39 percent of the renewables subsidies, and solar attracted 35 percent."
Still, it's no surprise that Murray, the founder of the largest privately held coal company in the U.S., is speaking out against energy alternatives. Murray has filed multiple lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over carbon regulations that he said would permanently destroy the coal industry.
Bloomberg wrote, "seismic changes in energy policy and competition from natural gas have pummeled coal miners, leading to bankruptcies and record production cuts ... Murray Energy announced earlier this summer that it was considering cutting more than 4,000 jobs, accounting for about 80 percent of its workforce, amid weak coal prices."
Here he is on Fox Business railing against Clinton's energy policies.