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Fossil Fuel Fight
Shale Gas Is a Real Coal Killer

Burning coal is a very dirty and very cheap way to power one’s economy, but in the shale gas-rich United States, the sooty rock is finding itself choked out by fracking. The FT reports:

The most immediate threat to coal remains the gas production unlocked by the shale revolution. Although coal-fired generation has recovered somewhat as the gas price bounced back from a 10-year low in 2012, the combination of cheap gas with environmental regulations is accelerating the retirement of coal plants.

New EPA regulations on power plant emissions threaten to curtail coal consumption in the United States even further. With domestic demand for coal dropping, miners are looking abroad for more pliant customers, most notably to the supposedly green-minded Europeans. Across the Atlantic, energy security is decidedly shaky, as many European countries neglected to set down the shale trail and now find themselves more reliant on Russian gas than they’d like. Renewables can only function as a kind of swing energy source. Given their intermittent nature, they can’t be relied upon to provide consistent baseload power the way coal, gas, or nuclear can. That’s why many of the vaunted green “triumphs” in government-backed wind and solar energy expansion have done little to curb Europe’s need for fossil fuels.

But as the FT notes, American coal is finding it difficult to compete abroad with “lower-cost competition from Indonesia, Australia and South Africa, and a slowdown in global demand.” King Coal’s reign, at least in America, seems to be coming to an abrupt and rather ignominious end.

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  • Andrew Allison
    • Sibir_RUS

      Coal is highly polluting to the environment.
      Gas is eco-friendly.

      • Andrew Allison

        There’s no dispute that coal is highly polluting. But as the link which I provided shows, it’s going to be burned, it’s just a question of where. As was recently described here, the rumors of fracking’s environmental impact have been greatly exaggerated, and are far, far less than those of burning coal. We do, of course, understand Russia’s concern about alternatives to the over-priced oil and gas exports that are propping up it’s economy [/grin]

        • CaliforniaStark

          Yes, it is interesting how much time and effort Qatar and Russian interests expend on trying to save the United States from fracking. Could it have something to do with both being large natural gas producers? Russia obtains about 56% if its energy from natural gas; its environment must be suffering from extreme harm. Where’s the wind turbines; where’s the solar?

        • Sibir_RUS

          The export of shale gas across the ocean is a myth. You even own problems to deal not able. When cold, prices are rising significantly.
          January 2014
          The cost of gas in new Jersey, where the fuel is supplied, in particular, in new York, grew up to 90 USD per 1 million British thermal units (BTU), while 3 January was about 14 USD per 1 million BTU.
          2 other hubs where the fuel comes to the States from South Carolina to new Jersey, the price jumped up to 95 USD per 1 million BTU.
          So high gas prices did not rise the last ten years.

          • Andrew Allison

            The subject of this post is coal, and of my comment that coal which is being displaced by natural gas in the U.S. is being exported to Europe. That said, the four LNG Export terminals approved as of September 30, and three import terminals that can be repurposed (, suggest that your argument regarding gas exports is wishful thinking.

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