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Energy / Coal

  • 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…

  • A Flagship U.S. Coal Project Gets Quashed

    Producers in the coal space are desperately looking for answers these days.Miners are trying to find ways to maintain profitability. In the face of falling prices for most grades of coal globally.The effects have been particularly strong in the U.S. Where environmental regulations, and abundant mine supply, have conspired to drop local prices to multi-year lows.And the industry was dealt another blow this week. When a key export project was denied by regulatory authorities, now putting this high-hopes work in jeopardy.The project is a coal terminal on the Pacific coast of Oregon. Advanced over the past two years by Australia's…

  • Ten Facts About Coal You Probably Didn’t Know

    While I’ve been digging into a bunch of different commodities recently, there have been a number of interesting bits and bobs relating to coal that I’ve been squirreling away. Hence, here are ten tidbits that I wanted to share:1) Coal is currently used to meet 30% of global primary energy needs, which is the highest level since 1970. It is used to generate 41% of the world’s electricity and is used in the production of 70% of the world’s steel.2)  According to the World Resources Institute, almost 1,200 coal-fired power plants had been proposed globally in 2012, with China and…

  • Why Appalachian Coal Can’t Compete With Colombia

    Deep in U.S. coal country, people are suffering economically not just from the White House’s determination to reduce America’s dependence on coal, but also because of competition from an unlikely place: Colombia.To be sure, an abundance of cheap natural gas is responsible for most of economic hurt in mining states like West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. Record natural gas production from shale has given utilities a cheaper, and cleaner, fuel.  Also, as Republicans are eager to point out, environmental regulations have put a gradually tightening noose around the neck of Big Coal. With new limits on toxic emissions, and…