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Sierra Daily

Jan 24, 2012

"Coal Industry Losing Steam"

All together now: Awwwwww! Here's the lede to today's story in the Wall Street Journal:

This year's outlook is grim for the U.S coal industry, which after two years of rising profits has begun closing mines, signaling a new wave of production cutbacks and, possibly, another round of industry consolidation.

Reasons: cheap natural gas, Europe's shaky economy slowing its steel mills (and thus demand for metallurgical coal), and "tougher federal emissions rules for U.S. utilities, resulting in more planned closures of coal-fired generating plants and eroding the market for thermal coal."

The industry analysts cited by the Journal do, however, see growing coal use in the future, largely because of China's insatiable demand. BP PLC, in fact, believes that coal will account for the largest share of the world's energy consumption by 2030, at 27.7% (compared to oil at 27.2%, natural gas at 25.9%, and renewables at a paltry 6.3%). Domestically, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in its new Annual Energy Outlook, predicts flatlining coal usage through 2035:


Coal's market share of U.S. electricity production is expected to continue to drop, from 44 to 39 percent. But even that projection, says Bruce Nilles of the Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, is way too rosy:

While the EIA estimates that over the next 25 years approximately 33,000 megawatts of existing coal power will retire, the Sierra Club has identified over 38,000 megawatts of existing coal power that has retired or announced an upcoming retirement since January 2010 – and more are expected soon. There are about 340,000 megawatts of coal in the United States as of January 2010. 

Coal is not only killing us; it's a dying industry. It's up to us to hasten it to the graveyard.

--Paul Rauber

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