Natural gas prices more than doubled "over the past two years in response to a tighter market," opening the door for coal to regain popularity, Cockerham writes. That led to the use of natural gas for power generation dropping in 2013 for the first time in five years. "The Arctic blasts of this year’s winter also pushed power plants to turn to coal in order to meet the nation’s record-setting heating requirements."
"There’s serious doubt whether the resurgence in coal can last in America with stricter environmental rules coming. But the global outlook for coal is bright, and U.S. coal producers hope to take advantage by increasing exports to other countries hungry for cheap energy. The IEA believes coal will be the No. 1 fuel for meeting the worldwide increase in energy demand."
Illinois, Indiana and Western Kentucky have benefited from the increased demand for coal, with those areas producing 50 percent more than a decade ago, Cockerham writes. Montana and Wyoming have also fared well, but Central Appalachia, especially Eastern Kentucky, continues to struggle. (Read more)