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Energy / Coal

  • U.S. Utilities Facing Fuel Shortage Problems As Winter Approaches

    American utility companies are facing lower-than-average fuel supplies as they begin to stockpile for the winter. Part of the reason is the country’s oil boom. Moving oil by rail has become so widespread that train backups are making it hard for utilities to receive shipments of coal, which in some cases is leaving power plants critically low on fuel supplies.  Coal stocks were inordinately depleted during the unusually long, cold snowy winter in the U.S., which saw an elevated level of electricity demand. Months later, coal-fired power plants are still struggling to replace their coal supplies. “Coal piles around the…

  • Congress Considers Federal Assistance For Laid-Off Coal Miners

    A major coal mining company has announced another round of layoffs as declining demand for coal continues to depress the industry.Alpha Natural Resources, the world’s third largest supplier of metallurgical coal, said Sept. 26 that it would be shuttering three mines in West Virginia due to “sustained weak market conditions and government regulations challenging the Central Appalachian mining industry.” The closures will put 261 people out of work. The news has a familiar refrain; more than 20,000 coal miners have lost their jobs since 2011. But coal mining jobs have been disappearing for more than 30 years. As of March…

  • Supreme Court Ruling Deals Blow To Indian Coal Sector

    In the end, it turned out as many feared it would. The Supreme Court of India canceled all but 4 of the 218 coal blocks allocated for mining by the government over the last two decades.Following this, power, steel and cement companies that were given these blocks between 1993 and 2010 will have to return them, and then, the government is free to either re-auction them or allot them to central firms.MetalMiner reported in August that the apex court had found all such coal licenses illegal.Related: Why King Coal Will Keep Its CrownThe coal blocks that were spared are being…

  • U.S. Senator Calls For Suspension Of Coal Leases

    A prominent U.S. senator wants to halt all sales of coal mined on federal lands in the western United States because he says the government is getting ripped off. The decline in demand for coal in the United States has producers looking to overseas markets, and pushing for the construction of export terminals in Oregon and Washington State. Much of the coal that will be loaded on ships heading for Asia will come from federal land in the American west. And in the west, the federal government owns a lot of land. Some 42 percent of the coal produced in…

  • Why King Coal Will Keep Its Crown

    For climate change activists and those hoping for an energy future dominated by renewables or even less-polluting natural gas, the death of coal cannot come quickly enough. But with coal still the dominant form of cheap electricity throughout the world, it is unlikely the bogeyman of climate change will disappear anytime soon.That's because the price of coal, compared to other fuels, is just too good to refuse. Just look at China, where the country's double-digit economic growth has largely been fueled by coal, which fulfills 60 percent of its energy mix.According to a chart showing the levelized cost of energy…

  • Why China’s Insatiable Appetite For Coal Has Likely Peaked

    China’s run as the world’s most voracious consumer of coal may be coming to an end. A recent report from Greenpeace found that China’s coal consumption declined in the first half of this year and new Chinese government data suggests that the country’s coal imports have dropped. Estimates indicate that by the end of the year, China’s coal imports could be 8 percent below 2013 levels. China imported 18.86 million tonnes of coal in August, the lowest level since September 2012.Part of the reduced demand is due to a slowing Chinese economy. After years of double-digit growth rates, China’s GDP…

  • Is Coal Really Peaking In China?

    Better Technologies Needed for Emissions to Start Falling“While uncertainty over the changes in coal stockpiles still exists, we’re confident that the unbelievable may be at hand: peak coal consumption in China.” So concludes a recent blog post from the Sierra Club’s Justin Guay and Greenpeace International’s Lauri Myllyvirta, the latter of whom recently published an analysis suggesting that Chinese coal consumption dropped in the first half of 2014:What does this recent (possible) dip auger for future emissions and energy trends in China? I think it’s safe to say the answer is far more complicated than “clean energy is the future,”…

  • West Virginia Unprepared For Future Without Coal

    The economy in coal country is being left behind the rest of America. Coal communities have long suffered from higher rates of poverty than many other parts of the country, but they now face an extended period of decline. In regions where coal mining makes up a disproportionate share of the economy, this portends economic pain for years to come.The Washington Post has published several articles on the economic hardship people in coal-dependent communities experience, with a focus on West Virginia. One article asked whether local and regional economies put themselves at a disadvantage by becoming overly dependent on extractive…

  • Buying Coal Stocks Is Still Too Risky: Shorting This One Isn’t

    I have been contributing here for about six months and in that time I have covered most aspects of the energy markets, with one glaring exception. Not once have I mentioned coal. There is a good reason for that. I regard coal stocks as inherently too risky and, without wishing to be too blunt, I wouldn’t buy them with somebody else’s money, let alone my own.Risk is a funny thing, or rather our perception of it is. I well remember sitting in a restaurant with a good friend who was horrified by my choice of tuna as an entrée. “Don’t…

  • Coal Exports from West Coast Running Out of Time

    The U.S. is burning coal at a slower rate, due to cheap natural gas and environmental restrictions on air pollution. With utilities unable to justify weighty investments in pollution control technology, they have opted to shift their generation towards natural gas and renewable energy.Not only has this nearly zeroed out U.S. coal imports, the decline of coal-fired power plants is forcing coal producers to look abroad to push their product. For several years, the U.S. has found willing buyers overseas. The total volume of coal exported from American shores jumped almost 45% between 2008 and 2013, a remarkable increase. But…