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'Coal will be competitive again' and the US needs to be ready, says Trump advisor Gary Cohn

  • The U.S. needs to keep all of its energy options open, the director of Trump's National Economic Council says.
  • Cohn's comments are in response to questions about President Trump's announcement to pull the U.S. out of the global climate accord.

The United States needs to keep all of its options open to ensure the nation has "the cheapest available energy" sources, including coal, top White House economic advisor Gary Cohn told CNBC on Friday.

Cohn's comments were in response to questions about President Donald Trump's Thursday afternoon announcement to pull the U.S. out of the global climate accord. Among the reasons cited for the move, the president said the Paris Agreement dramatically hurts the U.S. coal industry.

Cohn, director of Trump's National Economic Council, said on "Squawk on the Street" that there's a place for coal in America's energy mix from an economic perspective. He did not wade into the debate on whether carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal for power plants and industrial factories contribute to global climate change.

"At some point in the cycle, coal will be competitive again," Cohn said. "We want to be in the coal business because we know there's a cyclical nature to all these commodity prices. And when coal is the feedstock of choice, we need to have that feedstock to be globally competitive."

Cohn, formerly second in command at Goldman Sachs, acknowledged that current market forces make coal more expensive than some energy alternatives.

"The price of natural gas because of the technological advances we've had in the United States, and all the fracking development in what we've done to create an abundance of natural gas, has made the price of coal less favorable today. That could change very quickly," he said.

Many CEOs were critical of Trump's decision, including Cohn's former boss, Goldman Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Cohn told CNBC he has not spoken to Blankfein since his current boss, the president, abandoned U.S. commitments to the Paris climate agreement made during the presidency of Barack Obama.

"But I did get caught off guard when [Blankfein] started tweeting last night," said Cohn, referring to Blankein's first-ever tweet.

One corporate leader in support of Trump's move is Robert Murray, chairman and CEO Murray Energy, an Ohio-based coal giant. Murray, a routine supporter of Trump's energy deregulation efforts, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Friday, "President Trump was very courageous."