Saturday, January 16, 2016

And then there was one. So, one more to go.

Arch Coal files for bankruptcy, joining a half-dozen other major American coal companies going bankrupt over the last year. Arch is the second biggest coal producer, after Peabody.  And Peabody is now worth 0.4% of what it was valued five years ago. The main, direct business effect is to make it very unlikely that coal corporations will be able to finance much anything, either through bonds or stock issuance. The political impact seems more important - the chart above shows what people think of coal's future.

And in political news, Obama has suspended new coal leases on federal lands for a three year review period. If a Democrat replaces Obama then this suspension will be permanent. While the administration claims current leases can sustain production for 20 years, the suspension reduces the flexibility to shift production between different leaseholders. Production level also depends on price, so the suspension eliminates the chance to switch to newer and cheaper coal sources on federal land, especially after the cheapest coal gets mined from existing leases.

Obama also has a $10 million program to assist economically-declining coal areas of Appalachia, assuming the Republican Congress passes it. That assumption isn't guaranteed, even though Republicans dominate the area, because the program helps people and not the coal corporations that fund the Republican Party.

Hillary Clinton has a much bigger $30 billion proposal specifically targeting assistance to present and retired coal miners. This relates back to the bankruptcies - the companies are using them to void pension obligations and to transfer ownership from stockholders to lenders, and among the stockholders are miner pension funds. Again coal companies and Republican leadership reject the help, arguing instead for trickle-down benefits of increasing coal company revenues and expecting miners to get some of the money.

Last, world coal consumption may have peaked in 2013. China and India may both be ramping down their coal imports. I'm not sure I believe their claims that they'll end imports in two years, but it's more evidence that the international market is in decline, which can affect the love affair with coal and climate denialism in places like Australia and the US.

Some very good news.


Fixed Carbon said...

Tell us about the new big coal generating plant in Germany.

Unknown said...

Hmm, I think the overall decline of fossil fuels in Germany is more interesting:

Note that the big loser has been gas. As the conventional generators discovered: building plant that stands idle is a low profit scenario and they didn't see the increase in the price of gas coming.

JohnMashey said...

See Particular about Particulates in The Economist.
India has quite a few cities that are worse than Beijing.

David B. Benson said...

Difficult to believe that India can possibly mine the required coal, ever.

Hank Roberts said...

That sums up why I keep wondering if the change in India's and China's atmosphere in the past 15 years could possibly be confusing the satellite temperature microwave instruments.

"... A fine powder combining arsenic, black carbon, formaldehyde, nickel, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide .... a tripling of the number of vehicles on India’s roads between 2002 and 2013.... Between 2000 and 2013 the proportion of new cars with diesel engines rose steeply, from one in 20 to one in two."

Are balloon/sounder measurements taken in India and China alongside the satellite passes? If so, no problem, they're all seeing the same air. If not, ???

I'll stop asking now.


Hank, the article notes that the air above Delhi gets a 200 tonne a day dose of this litany of nanodreck, but that gets divided into gigatonnes of air- the optical gloom doesn't translate into much molecular O2 emission attenuation because the particles are too small to scatter millimeter waves.