Speakers at the Somerset County Republican Fall Banquet were fired up about coal Thursday and the fate of one of the county's largest industries.
Keynote speaker John Pippy, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, described the "war on coal" as a war on the middle class.
"Since President Obama has been in office, coal production nationally is down 6 percent and Pennsylvania is down 17 percent," he said. "We need to start fighting back."
Pippy, a former state representative and senator in the 37th District, said the United States is falling behind countries such as China because of heavy government regulation, competitive shortfalls in technology and high energy costs.
"(The U.S.) is sending $300 billion a year overseas to buy energy that we could mine, drill and use in our own country," he said. "I hear you have some maple syrup around here. That'd be like you buying your syrup from Canada. It just doesn't make sense."
Pippy criticized Obama's support for Solyndra, a solar energy company that filed for bankruptcy last year. The Obama administration OK'd a more than $500 million loan to the clean energy company in 2009, two years before its collapse.
Pippy said the country needs to focus on developing its domestic energies.
"We're an energy-rich nation and it's not just coal," he said. "It's natural gas, nuclear and American oil as well."
Pippy's message was echoed by the other speakers at Thursday night's banquet. State Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar, R-Allegheny Township, drew distinctions between the president and Somerset County residents.
"The guy in the White House doesn't like coal miners," he said. "He doesn't like people who own coal mines. He doesn't like any of the people who work hard for a living to make money. This election is about choice. Do you control your lives or does the government?