It was a stellar clash - right before the eyes of 130 state utility regulators, their colleagues and energy industry folk. They are gathered this week in Los Angeles for the summer meetings of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
First up - Gregory H. Boyce, chairman and CEO of Peabody Energy Corp., the largest coal company in the land.
Here is some of what he had to say:
"Coal is the only fuel meeting global demand."
Those greenhouse gas foes worried about climate change - if they want to replace coal generation by 2035, it would take 2,100 nucleaer power plants. Or - 4.6 million wind turbines.
Coal is abundant - and cheap. The 10 states most reliant on coal generation enjoy power rates 40 percent below other states.
Reliable estimates say that strict new federal emissions standards will result in the loss of 77,300 megwatts of coal generation.
But coal is in growth mode. By 2050, the amount of power generated by coal will increase 130 percent - and annual coal use will be double, compared to today.
Boyce made his comments and then immediately departed from the Marriott ballroom. He had to hop on a call.
Shortly thereafter, Aubrey McClendon, chairman and CEO of Chesapeake Energy, the major developer of shale gas, took the stage.
Here is what he said:
"I don't believe we are on a path to consume 13 billions tons of coal a year on this planet." [That was a Boyce projection]. "There is a better way."
Forget about clean coal - and carbon capture and sequestration. "The killer ap is not CCS. It is natural gas."
Roughly one-third of all states produce natural gas. It is abundant and it will hold down electricity costs.
Natural gas prices will range beween $3.50 and $5 per million cubic feet - "maybe $6 ... for years, maybe decades to come."
There you have it. Boyce and McClendon - giants of coal and natural gas - telling their stories to state regulators.
In private conversations with EnergyBiz later that day, state regulators said they worry about the cost of tougher emissions standards that coal generators will face, And they worry about what will happen if there is a rush to gas and gas-powered generation - and then the gas supply bubble pops or commodity prices soar. Look for their detailed comments in an upcoming issue of EnergyBiz. You have time to sign up to receive it at www.energybiz.com/register. Free.