Thursday, May 12, 2016

Climate change: The end of coal?

Good news: big coal is going bankrupt:

More than half the assets in the global coal industry are now held by companies that are either in bankruptcy proceedings or don't earn enough money to pay their interest bills , according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In the U.S., only three of 12 large coal miners traded on public markets escape that ignominious club, separate data show. The largest of those, Consol Energy, is morphing into a natural-gas producer.


Coal ``has undergone a long-term structural decline, with little prospect for near-term recovery,'' Moody's analysts led by Anna Zubets-Anderson wrote in a note last week. Of the four major U.S. coal regions, only the Illinois basin has good long-term prospects, they said. Central Appalachia will ``cease to be a major coal producing region,'' while the Northern Appalachian and Powder River basins will decline too because of competition from gas.

There are multiple reasons for this, one of which is low oil prices, which in turn lower gas prices. But cheap renewable energy is part of it, as are climate change regulations and loss of social licence. The upshot is that a lot of coal mines have become stranded assets, effectively worthless. As we've seen in New Zealand. Which means that coals days as a polluter are numbered...