Wednesday, August 02, 2017

CSX, which once lived on coal, won't buy any more coal trains: 'Fossil fuels are dead,' its boss says

Hunter Harrison
If you live in Appalachia, CSX trains carrying coal down the rails has been an everyday sight. But CSX's new president thinks that may soon be a thing of the past. During a conference call with industry analysts last week, Hunter Harrison said he thinks "fossil fuels are dead" and the company will not buy any more locomotives for coal trains, Gregory Meyer reports for Financial Times. He stressed that coal will be mined for years, and said "The last carload of coal that’s shipped out of this country, I want to be the carrier that ships it." But he believes the end is coming. "That’s a long-term view. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to be in two or three years. But it’s going away, in my view.”

Harrison's comments underscore those of other industry experts predicting the continued decline of coal, despite President Trump's efforts to revive the industry. In March, "Robert Murray, owner of the world’s largest private coal company, said he told Trump to 'temper his expectations' about reversing coal’s decline. And in May, Gary Cohn, director of the White House's National Economic Council, told reporters that coal 'doesn’t make sense anymore,'" Chris D'Angelo reports for The Huffington Post.

Jacksonville-based CSX had a strong second quarter overall, but profits from coal were about half what they were in the second quarter six years ago. "U.S. power generators are building more plants fuelled by cheap natural gas, displacing old coal-fired unites. Falling costs for solar and wind energy have also eaten into coal's market share," Meyer notes.

The company's stock dropped about 6 percent following the announcement, perhaps also because Harrison said during the conference call that he doesn't plan to stay at CSX long. "I'm a short-timer here," he said. I'm the interim person that's going to try to get this company to the next step and good foundation." He also said that 700 more layoffs may be on the way, Will Robinson reports for the Jacksonville Business Journal.

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