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:

sharetotal

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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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.

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