Itís been an interesting year. As we go to press, we still donít have our energy legislation but itís very close. The economy has grown and the industrial sector has strengthened. Coalís competing fuels are somewhat restrained with natural gas prices in the $5.00 to $6.00 per million Btu range and nuclear and hydro generation close to their practical limits. Stockpiles are below normal levels and coal supply and demand are in balance in most regions.
    Operating difficulties as well as permitting and financial problems in Appalachia continue to affect the regionís output. Meanwhile environmental regulations are being favorably clarified and reasonable multi-emissions standards are gaining support. Plans for new coal plants continue to solidify with announcements, permits and construction projects underway across the country. The imminent energy bill contains clean coal technology funding and strong support has been won for coal technologies from leaders of both parties.
    As we approach Christmas, our thoughts go to coal mining families, friends and children. Miners throughout the country, both in surface and underground mines work around the clock continuing the task of mining coal as safely as possible and supplying inexpensive electrical energy everyday, thus contributing to the higher living standards of every American.
    This is a wonderful industry with extraordinary people in it. Coal Leader is proud to play a continuing role in serving the coal mining industry and takes the opportunity of wishing all its readers and their families a very very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous, Successful and Safe 2004.


Bill Reid


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