Coal making a comeback?

Coal could be making a comeback in the US now prices have dropped.

Remember all the stories about how a glut of cheap shale gas was killing off coal in the United States and slashing the country’s carbon-dioxide emissions? It’s time to revise those headlines slightly.

According to the latest data from the Energy Information Administration, coal has been reclaiming some — though not all — of its market share in 2013:


This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. As I’ve noted before, natural gas prices have been creeping up over the past year, thanks to a combination of a colder winter, higher demand for heating fuel, scaled-back drilling, and also new storage facilities that are preventing a glut of gas on the market. The ultra-low gas prices that were devastating the coal industry in 2011 and 2012 weren’t sustainable forever.

Emissions are likely to rise, but evidence is now showing that CO2 isn’t the culprit.

 That said, coal could continue to struggle. It’s important not to go overboard here. Natural gas is still more dominant than it was in 2007, thanks to the fracking boom, and it’s not vanishing. Even in the EIA’s worst-case scenarios, natural gas prices only rise to about $6 per million BTU by 2020. That might make it easier for existing power plants to burn more coal. But, according to most projections, it will still be uneconomical for utilities to build new coal-fired facilities for the foreseeable future.

What’s more, new pollution regulations from the Obama administration are constraining the coal industry.



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  • I’m sure this is going to become the norm worldwide. It would make sense though to frack the gas out of the coal fields before mining. That way there is a win win for all. I heard reports over the weekend that the UK’s steam trains were having to close down their tourist operations because a lack of coal supply. Absolutely ridiculous when the UK has such enormous coal reserves. More stupid, one eyed, green, moldy thinking.

    • LabTested

      UK has to live with EU directives on renewable energy generation, so coal is evil. However it is leading to crazy situations such as the UK building wood burning power plants that run on wood imported from the States

      • The Americans will be laughing all the way to the bank! If they thought that was a viable solution, they would be burning their own sawdust. Now they get big dollars for their waste byproduct. Now that is good business. Do you think the Americans have insiders influencing the EU emissions policy?

        • GazzW

          It’s not waste product Euan. There was a news segment on BBC TV regarding this very issue last week. Thousands of hectares of Georgia are being deforested and then chipped purely to supply this market. Sure, it’s shit timber but the forestry is leaving behind all sorts of environmental problems. Its Green policy gone completely off the rails yet again.

  • Col

    Now that is interesting, what will the Greenies say about this?
    I can see a new word coming to lighten up our lives, “Fracking”
    Russell why don’t you Frack off?

    • dyannt

      Battlestar Galactica? There’s a lot of fracking in that series.

  • Macca

    And yet, the MSM are still banging the Gweens drum with their no mining, no drilling etc. I realize that coal won’t last forever and is really just a short term solution (say the next 50 years on an uneducated guess), but its sure as hell a better solution to the 100,000 green jobs the Gween Taliban are offering as a solution!

    • All_on_Red

      NZ has coal reserves for several hundred years

      • Col

        If the Greens have anything to do with it, the coal reserves will be a million Fracking years.

  • johnbronkhorst

    So Obama can’t kill off the coal industry, no matter how hard he tried!
    Lefties never get it….the market will out. The most powerful law in economics is…the law of SUPPLY and DEMAND. It is also the most democratic process, if people don’t want it there is no market to supply!

  • johnbronkhorst

    With the increase in demand, the price will rise…how’s the west coast coal looking now?

  • Lloyd

    UK heritage steam outfits are currently so short of coal, they are importing it from Poland and Germany. Coal is not the problem people are making it out to be.

  • rockape

    A boom for West Coast jobs and their economy, how bad is that Labour.