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Please begin with an informative title:

Oh, where do we begin since we left off?

Lets start with general news that US Coal distribution fell another 7% in the fourth quarter of 2013.  

This lack of demand continues to batter the trading price of coal.  Its currently trading at $60.53 and positioned to fall.  Remember the price of all fuel rises in the Winter due to heating demand and today, boys and girls, is the first day of SPRING!   ..and ICF International recently released their market analysis and expects 2014 to be the weakest year for the US Coal industry ever.

But whatever, even the lesser-political Koch brother has read the writing on the wall and pulled his company, Oxbow Carbon, out of the Coal business altogether…. So let’s get to some details!

Intro

You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

March saw the largest ever fine imposed on a coal company under the Clean Water Act.  Eric Holder announced on March 5 that Alpha Natural Resources will pay $27.5 million as a direct fine and another $200 million in forced upgrades across 66 disparate subsidiaries.   These upgrades are expected to reduce the discharge of dissolved solids by 36 million pounds per year.  –and note, this is not a charge or an accusation.  This is a settlement, as in: DONE DEAL. Company agreed. Court imposed. Finito.

December saw three of the biggest coal-fired generators in Arizona shut down permanently.  The notorious Four Corners power plant in Farmington, NM shut down the oldest three of its five units rather than upgrade them to meet EPA standards.

In the "We'll believe it when we see it" category, Duke Energy has started floating the idea of additional plant closures in North Carolina in reaction of the coal ash spills.  Pragmatic attempt to divest of continued liability or temporary PR move to look like they give a shit?  You be the judge.....

Yeah, yeah, yeah… war on coal and whatnot right?  I mean how can you call it a governmental “war” when these are just companies making their own cost-benefit analysis and deciding to shut down unprofitable units?  For a REAL “War of Coal” we would want to see court-ordered shutdowns, police raiding power plants to sieze control and halt operations as a measure to protect the health of its citizens, amirite?  Damn right!  And for THAT all we need to do is look to Italy.

A judge directed police to take control of the plant, which is owned by Tirreno Power, after finding in favor of prosecutors in the case. Francantonio Granero, Savona's chief prosecutor, had argued that emissions from the plant were responsible for more than 400 premature deaths between 2000 and 2007, and 2,000 cases of heart and lung disease.
Now THAT is how you wage a war on Coal!

Anyway, back in the US, we also won an early round in a potentially important legal fight out West where the Sierra Club is leading an effort to sue BNSF for environmental damage for the amount of coal dust that gets blown off open rail cars hauling coal out of Wyoming.  Wyoming is currently the largest producer of US coal so anything we can do to cripple that will help.

Washington State helped out by ordering a complete and extensive environmental review of the proposed coal export terminal that the industry desperately wants as a way to ship Wyoming coal to Asia.  There had been a push to get the state and local governments to green light this so this kind of review will not only help illuminate the environmental costs of this operation but served as lethally effective BRAKE on the all-out lobbyist surge that had been going on.

And we’re starting to see Obama’s international investment policy in action.  Remember, he announced in October that the US would no longer fund any new coal-based energy projects around the World.  The World Bank formally followed suit.  As did the United Kingdom.  And then even the Export-Import Bank agreed  (More on the Ex-Im Bank in a second….)

Turns out this isn’t just talk.  State department officials were on-site visiting Jamaica, a close ally and near-by trading partner of the US and stated openly to journalists:

Jamaica should not expect any support, financial or otherwise, from the United States (US) for any coal-powered energy initiative, now or any time in the future.
As for the Ex-Im Bank (and I can’t help but point out that Obama did once explicitly call the Export-Import Bank “nothing more than a fund for corporate welfare” ...get to about the 30sec mark of this clip to watch him say it) they are still being sued by Friends of the Earth and other groups for financing coal exports with taxpayer dollars without evaluating environmental impact.   Here is the actual filing (PDF File) for those interested.

Now I know what everyone rushes to the comment sections to point out in every “Coal is Dying, YAY!” diary:  CHINA.

Yeah, China coal demands are increasing as they struggle to meet their energy demands, BUT…  they are making a concerted effort to start getting away from Coal.  China is passing more and more environmental regulations and wants 50% of their generation to come from renewables by 2030.  They are already pushing to idle their high-cost coal mines once they get enough solar power on their grid.  Read the analysis of JA Solar’s first profitable quarter for some interesting insight.

Also, China’s coal demand has long been the one bright star upon which every American dirty-rock digging company has hung its profit-driven hopes.  Even as the US enjoys its Natural Gas boom, they kept thinking they could keep turning a profit if they could just get their product to Asia.  The problem with that is that Australia is so much closer and wants in on the Sell-Dirty-Coal-to-China game.  ..but even they will face a huge hurdle once China starts greening.  Full analysis of China’s environmental reform on Australian Coal assets: PDF FIle

{sigh} ... these are always fun.  I track this stuff every day through a number of news filters I have set up on various sites, but its better reading off some of the highlights like this.

And to end, as always, on a positive note:

100% of All New US Capacity in the Month of January was Renewable.  100% the largest installation of which was:

Exelon Corp’s 130 MW Antelope Valley Solar Phase II expansion project in Los Angeles County, CA is online. The power generated is sold to Pacific Gas and Electric under long-term contract.
Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Wisper on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 06:35 AM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS, Maryland Kos, and Community Spotlight.

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