Energy

Coal Prices Just Doubled Despite Obama’s Best Efforts

(REUTERS/Jim Young)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

Global coal prices more than doubled over the last year, which could cause a renaissance in the U.S. mining industry, despite President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s best efforts to stifle the industry.

The price of coal in Australia and China has soared by 150 percent since this time last year, according to a graph complied by Bloomberg.

Such massive price fluctuations are due to regulatory changes in the Chinese steel industry and increased demand in India, which caused coal prices to rise by 20 percent in the last week alone. Rapidly rising coal prices have prompted companies to invest $90 million into a pair of new coal mines in West Virginia and Virginia. These mines will create about 400 jobs in counties where unemployment is almost three times the national average.

America has 83,000 fewer coal jobs and 400 fewer coal mines than it did when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, showing that the president has followed through on his pledge to “bankrupt” the coal industry.

“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” Obama said during a 2008 interview with The San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board.

Clinton also pledged that, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

A 2015 study found the coal industry lost 50,000 jobs from 2008 to 2012 during Obama’s first term. During Obama’s second term, the industry employment in coal mining has fallen by another 33,300 jobs — 10,900 of which occurred in the last year alone, according to federal data.

Currently, coal mining employs 69,460 Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Much of the blame for the job losses is targeted at federal regulations aimed at preventing global warming, which caused coal power plants to go bankrupt.

Obama and Clinton largely succeeded in shutting down coal power in the U.S., but the coal America would be burning is now shipped abroad, according to data from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).

India is buying way more coal from America than before. India bought 5 percent of America’s coal in 2014, while in 2015, the country purchased an additional two million short tons — meaning 9 percent of American coal went to India, according to the EIA. India’s government plans to double coal production and imports by 2020, while building 87,122 megawatts of new coal power capacity.

“[O]ur dependence on coal will continue. There are no other alternatives available,” a top Indian coal ministry bureaucrat told Reuters in December. India says coal provides the cheapest energy for the kind of rapid industrialization that will lift millions out of poverty. The U.S. coal shipped to countries other than India will mostly be used to make steel.

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