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Is The Coal Industry Void Of Opportunity?

Mention the word “coal” to most investors without the word “short” attached in some way and they, understandable and usually rightly, run as fast as they can to get away from the crazy person talking to them. Despite the industry’s best efforts to promote what they refer to as ‘clean coal”, most people view the fuel as dirty, dangerous to recover and essentially a thing of the past.

That perception is certainly held by the current administration in the U.S., where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules regarding emissions will effectively close dozens more coal fired power plants over the next few years. Overseas, even the Chinese and the Indians have at least paid lip service to cleaner electricity production recently and declared an intention to move away from coal. When push comes to shove I am still not convinced that the necessary huge investment to make that shift will be forthcoming in either case but, even without that, low global prices and relatively high production costs have made exports unlikely to fill the gap between supply and demand here in the U.S. Indeed, total exports of coal dropped by 21.8 percent from 74,981,013 short tons in 2014 to 58,659,154 last year, according to the EIA.

Those realities have certainly been reflected in the stock and fortunes of U.S. coal producing companies. Bankruptcy has already been declared by Patriot Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, and Arch Coal and, any day now…

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