Coal stocks tumble; U.S. exit from climate deal may hurt industry
By Rodrigo Campos and Nichola Groom
NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – U.S. coal company shares dipped alongside renewable energy stocks on Wednesday after reports that President Donald Trump plans to pull the United States from a global accord on fighting climate change.
The market reaction reflects concerns, raised by some coal companies in recent months, that a U.S. exit from the Paris Climate Agreement could unleash a global backlash against coal interests outside the United States.
Peabody Energy, the largest publicly-traded U.S. coal company was down 3.1 percent to $24.07 a share by afternoon, while Arch Coal fell 0.2 percent to $70.27.
A spokesman for Peabody said the company would support a decision by Trump to withdraw from the Paris deal because the “accord is flawed on a number of levels.”
Peabody, however, was among a handful of big coal companies that had argued that Trump should stay in the deal to help protect coal industry interests overseas, including by ensuring funding for coal-fired power plants and so-called “clean coal” technology.
Cloud Peak Energy Inc had also urged the Trump administration to stay in the Paris deal to prevent other nations from an aggressive turn against the global coal industry. Its shares were down more than 3 percent to $3.30.
A spokesman for Cloud Peak declined to comment.
A source briefed on Trump’s plans told Reuters that Trump has decided to follow through on his campaign pledge to pull the United States out of the Paris accord, a move designed to help boost domestic energy production and speed economic growth, after weeks of deliberations on the issue.
Trump did not confirm the decision, but said he would make an announcement “over the coming days”.
A U.S. withdrawal would come over the objections of scores of big U.S. corporations – from Wal-Mart to Exxon Mobil – worried the move will undermine U.S. growth instead of bolstering it.
Solar energy shares also got hit on Wednesday, with First Solar Inc down 2.7 percent, and SunPower Corp each down 3.1 percent.
“Regardless of what the President decides on the accord, we expect Americaâ€™s solar industry to continue to thrive and create jobs, boost the economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the Solar Energy Industries Association said in a statement.
Shares of Tesla Inc, which recently acquired SolarCity, were up 0.6 percent at $337.07.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that he had done “all I can” to convince Trump to stay in the Paris accord, and threatened to leave White House advisory councils if Trump announces a U.S. exit.
Oil company stocks, meanwhile, eased slightly. Exxon dipped 0.5 percent, ConocoPhillips declined 0.2 percent, and Chevron Corp fell 0.7 percent. Crude oil prices, meanwhile, fell to a three-week low on news Libyan output was recovering.
Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Darren Woods told reporters on the sidelines of the the company’s annual general meeting on Wednesday that it supported the Paris pact.
“For us, our position on the Paris agreement… we need a framework like that to address the risks of climate change,” he said. Exxon had made that case in a recent letter to the White House, he said.
Trump campaigned on a promise to unravel Obama-era climate regulations to help boost domestic oil, gas and coal production. Company executives, economists, and analysts have expressed skepticism, however, that his deregulatory agenda can alter existing trends away from coal and toward gas and renewables.
U.S. carbon emissions have declined to near 30-year lows, a trend driven by increased natural gas use replacing coal.
The VanEck Vectors Coal exchange-traded fund fell 1.3 percent to $12.70, not far from a five-month low hit earlier in May. The ETF is on track to fall 7.2 percent this month after rising in the first three months of the year as part of the so-called Trump trade.