At last, there are some good things happening for the coal industry. Some of these are as follows:

• The EPA had acted to clarify and restore important provisions of the New Source Review Program. The new rule allows generators to carry out repairs and improve components without the need of refitting every part of a plant with the best available control technology. This rule did not alter the Clean Air Act’s pollution control requirements which already have reduced regulated emissions to historic world class lows but the rule does eliminate some uncertainty and allow the nation to make fuller use of coal.

• The power blackout which occurred last month affecting some 50 million people in the Northeast and beyond, brought greater attention once again to the nation’s energy needs. The Energy Bill is again under discussion.

• U.S. coal markets have continued to show signs of strengthening during the third quarter despite the slow start to the summer cooling season.

• Increasing electricity demand and high natural gas prices have resulted in an increase in coal consumption at U.S. power plants.

• Utility stockpiles are currently 10% to 15% lower than in the same time last year.

• Coal companies are expecting growing electricity demand to increase fuel requirements of customers and that should provide an impetus for improving coal demand and pricing.

• Manufacturers of mining machinery, who attended the Bluefield Coal Show, are reporting stronger order books, particularly during the last four weeks, which is a reflection of a rebounding coal market.    

    The trends in U.S. coal markets are encouraging and U.S. coal consumption is rising. In addition, there is a growing feeling in Washington, D.C. and within the power generation industry that coal will play an even greater role in meeting America’s future energy needs, while the market share of natural gas and nuclear is expected to decline. Good news indeed!


Bill Reid


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