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 Post subject: KING COAL IS BACK
PostPosted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 8:03 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:16 pm
Posts: 478
Location: Anthracite Region of PA


C.2013 Hearst Newspapers@

WASHINGTON — King Coal is back — not that he ever went very far away.

According to Hal Quinn, president of the National Mining Association, coal in 2016 will again be the world's favorite carbon fuel, pushing out petroleum as the world's largest source of energy.

This may seem especially surprising at a time when the use of coal in the United States is in decline, edged out by cheap natural gas and increasingly strict regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet a rising tonnage of coal is being used for electric generation worldwide.

The Third World is hungry for coal, as those regions increase electricity production. In the developed world, nuclear setbacks — most notably the aftereffects of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in Japan when a tsunami wave knocked out six reactors — have helped boost the commitment to coal. The accident has forced the Japanese to burn more coal and the Germans to begin phasing out their nuclear power plants.

Other European countries are dithering, and the cost of building nuclear plants is rising.

If you do not have an abundance of natural gas, as here in the United States, then coal is your default choice. It is shipped around the world in larger and larger quantities. The more the world has resisted the burning of coal, the more it has had to fall back on it. Alternative energy, attractive in theory, is yet to make its mark.

Because coal has always had an environmental price, it has always been under attack, and at the same time it has proven stubbornly hard to replace. King Edward I of England, who reigned from 1239 to 1307, was the first known major opponent of coal. He banned it in 1306.

Tales of why he did this vary. One story goes that his mother, Queen Eleanor of Provence, when staying at Nottingham Castle, was so affected by the coal fumes from the town that she had to move out.

Wood was hard to come by in towns, and it does not heat like coal. Anyway England was a cold place and wood was in short supply, so the ban was not very effective, despite the fact that the death penalty was standard for disobeying royal orders.

Two and a half centuries later, Queen Elizabeth I tried to ban coal with not much effect. The prospect of a coal ban was even more draconian back then because her father, Henry VIII, had largely denuded the English forests to build his navy and she was even more committed to sea power.

With the invention of the steam engine in the early 1700s (ironically, it was originally intended to pump water out of coal mines), the supremacy of coal was guaranteed. It led directly to the Industrial Revolution and coal's preeminence as the fuel of the Industrial Age. There was a price in mine disasters, mine fires that burn for decades, and air pollution. But there were also huge benefits.

Britain led the way both in the use of coal and its environmental costs.

An industrial area in the Midlands was known as the "Black Country." London fog was assumed to be just that, fog, but it was smog. The smog was so bad that I can recall, in the winter of 1962, walking in the streets holding hands with strangers because you could not see where you were going. So-called smokeless fuel — usually a kind of coke or other high-carbon fuel — ended that, and natural fog in London is now no worse than it is elsewhere.

"Clean coal" has been the rallying call of the industry for 30 or more years — and coal is getting a lot cleaner in its preparation, combustion and mining. The trick in combustion is higher temperatures and pressures, described as supercritical and ultra-supercritical, a technology China has embraced that increases the efficiency of coal, from a historical 28 percent to around 50 percent with concomitant reductions in the greenhouse gas per kilowatt.

Mining, too, has gotten safer in the developed world with stricter regulation and better equipment. Quinn of the National Mining Association says that reclamation after strip mining is better than it ever has been. Yet the scars from an earlier time remain across all the coal- producing states.

If, like Edward I, Elizabeth I and the EPA, we cannot stop coal use, we better get behind the technologies and regulations that reduce its impact, because King Coal looks set for a long, long reign.


(Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of "White House Chronicle" on PBS. Email: lking(at)

Scott K
"Watch Your Top"

 Post subject: Re: KING COAL IS BACK
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 9:51 am 

Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:21 am
Posts: 179
Location: United States
Great article! Thanks for sharing that! I, too, remain bullish on coal for the long term or maybe even the LONG, long term but I am afraid we might be in for a rough ten years or so. That has me really disturbed because I am disproportionately exposed to railroads in my I.R.A. and this is not going to be good for the railroads. (Union Pacific Corp. and CSX Corp. are my two largest holdings of anything).

However, just like the article suggests, the popular resurgence of gas can't last forever and the United States is the "Middle East of coal". Our coal reserves are so immense that it's almost unfathomable. Someone once told me that there is enough coal in Utah alone to provide all our energy needs for over 200 years! That might be just a little bit of an exaggeration, but the point is we are in possession of some huge reserves. In a world of rising demand and diminishing natural resources, what are we supposed to do? Just let the coal sit there and don't use it? I don’t believe that is realistic.

Here is a thought I’d like to share with the group: Today in most people's homes (yours truly excepted), natural gas has become the home heating fuel of choice. So, all this new, cheap, shale gas ought to be a major boon for the American homeowner, right? In a time when everything else including taxes are going up, can't we at least get a break with cheap gas?

BUT! If they go and begin converting huge power plants from coal to gas, then the low cost of gas is not going to stay low very long, is it? Those new gas-fired plants are really going to put a floor under the price of gas.

So, why not use coal to generate electricity and leave the cheap gas to the homeowner? Doesn't that make sense? It seems like a "no-brainer" to me but perhaps I'm missing something here.

As for myself, I fully intend to continue to heat my home in the winter with anthracite. I am probably heating my home for between $600 – 800 a year. (I do buy and burn some wood in the fall and in the late spring). Friends and neighbors I talk to are spending $1,200 – 1,500 a year. For a savings like that, I don't mind making fire and carrying out ashes. Plus, I can keep my house just as warm as I want and never have to worry that if the thermostat is set too high, I might not be able to afford it.

Fred M. Cain

 Post subject: Re: KING COAL IS BACK
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:48 am 
Plus, the oil from Alaska is not used in the US. It all goes to Japan! American oil, drilled by Americans, refined by Americans, and carried by Americans in American ships, is burned in Asia! WHY?!?! We are complaining that it is SO expensive to import oil from the Middle East, and yet we are selling domestic oil. Why not stop exporting that oil and using it here?! IT MAKES NO SENSE!!!!! Only in America.

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