Coal stocks hit as reality of climate and EPA ruling finally sets in

It was inevitable that the increasingly dire threat of catastrophic climate change would hit coal companies — especially since neither the Bush administration nor the coal industry have taken climate change seriously, and therefore they failed to pursue clean coal (i.e. carbon capture and storage) aggresively.

In fact, they pursued CCS incompetently (see “Can the coal industry be saved in spite of itself? Should it be?” and “In seeming flipflop, Bush drops mismanaged ‘NeverGen’ clean coal project“).

The 2007 Supreme Court ruling that CO2 is a pollutant began a chain of events that led to the landmark ruling yesterday by the EPA Environmental Appeals Board yesterday, which in turn hits coal stocks hard today (see below).

The AP reported today that, as I suggested yesterday, “The fate of scores of new coal-burning power plants is now in limbo”:

Environmentalists and lawyers representing industry groups said the ruling puts in question permits — some being considered, others approved but under appeal — of perhaps as many as 100 coal plants….

Michael Gerrard, a lawyer not involved in the Bonanza case and author of “Global Climate Change and the Law,” said the decision “will embolden the lawsuits” challenging construction of new power plants based on their impact on climate.

“It means that the appeals board recognizes that carbon dioxide regulation of power plants is a very live and open issue. It does not ban them. It puts a cloud over them, by making it clear that this is a real issue,” Gerrard said in an interview.

And this translates into coal companies losing value today:

Arch Coal Inc. (ACI) 15.86 Down 2.22 (-12.28%)

Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU) 27.07 Down 2.40 (-8.14%)

Foundation Coal Holdings Inc. (FCL) 13.92 Down 1.64 (-10.54%)

Massey Energy Co. (MEE) 16.20 Down 2.33 (-12.57%)

Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. Ltd. (YZC) 5.14 Down 0.52 (-9.19%)

The coal industry is starting to look like a bit like the auto industry. Yes, it’s richer and more profitable, but it’s just as much in denial and therefore ultimately self-destructive and generally destructive (see “Why bail out the car companies when they bailed out on us?“).

11 Responses to Coal stocks hit as reality of climate and EPA ruling finally sets in

  1. Mark Shapiro says:

    Coal is beautiful. It contains memories of millions of years of life on earth, preserved in trillions of fossils.

    It is time to leave it in the ground.

  2. Kathy N. says:

    Starting a last, I just hope it isn’t to little to late. It really is nice to have even a little hope after the desert of dispair of the last 10 yrs.

  3. AAI says: remains the best blog on the entire web.

  4. simp says:

    This ruling and the election of Obama (I hope) are the best things that happened since ages! I have this feeling: well maybe avoiding catastrophe isn’T that impossible anymore.

    I agree, Climate Progress is superb – it’s the one website I check everytime I turn on my PC

  5. JCH says:

    Is there a way to meet rising demand for electricity in the next few years without coal (assuming there will be rising demand in Bush’s final gift – our Neocon economy)? T. Boone is rumored to have lost so much money in natural gas that he is postponing his wind farm. The local news is full of stories about the Barnett Shale shutting down.

    We are having a 1980s moment. Everybody in the oil patch has a perfect memory of it as it was a devastating time. “Drill baby, drill” is about to become, “yankee, you wanna a hole, drill it yourself.”

  6. Mark Shapiro says:

    JCH: “Is there a way to meet rising demand for electricity in the next few years without coal (assuming there will be rising demand in Bush’s final gift – our Neocon economy)?”

    Yes. See Joe’s postings under the category “Solutions” in the right hand column of the blog.

    Solution summary: efficiency, renewable sources, and conservation.

  7. This is great news. Fantastic!

  8. It is easy to shut down coal fired power plants. Just make them follow the same rules that nuclear power plants have to obey.

    Coal is mostly carbon, but the complete list of impurities in coal includes every element in the periodic table. The major impurities are, depending on where you found it: URANIUM, ARSENIC, LEAD, MERCURY, Antimony, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Selenium, Barium, Fluorine, Silver, Beryllium, Iron, Sulfur, Boron, Titanium, Cadmium, Magnesium, Calcium, Manganese, Vanadium, Chlorine, Aluminum, Chromium, Molybdenum and Zinc. Coal smoke and cinders are commercially viable ORE for the above elements. Chinese industrial grade coal contains much more arsenic than American coal. Chinese industrial grade coal is sometimes stolen by peasants for cooking. The result is that the whole family dies of arsenic poisoning. Coal varies a lot. You have to analyze it not only mine by mine but even lump by lump. Coal is a rock. It comes out of the ground. What would you expect of a rock?
    by Alex Gabbard
    Oak Ridge National Laboratory
    Oak Ridge, TN
    Selections from the 19th Annual Conference
    March 14,15,16, 1996
    Nashville, Tennessee

    Published by the
    Edited by Jack D. Arters, Ed.D.
    Conference Director
    The truth is, all natural rocks contain most natural elements. Coal is a rock. The average concentration of uranium in coal is 1 or 2 parts per million. Illinois coal contains up to 103 parts per million uranium. A 1000 million watt coal fired power plant burns 4 million tons of coal each year. If you multiply 4 million tons by 1 part per million, you get 4 tons of uranium. Most of that is U238. About .7% is U235. 4 tons = 8000 pounds. 8000 pounds times .7% = 56 pounds of U235. An average 1000 million watt coal fired power plant puts out 56 to 112 pounds of U235 every year. There are only 2 places the uranium can go: Up the stack or into the cinders.
    Since a reactor full fuel load is around 11 tons of 2% U235 and 98% U238, and one load lasts about 10 years, and what one coal fired power plant puts into the air and cinders fully fuels a nuclear power plant.
    Compare 4 Million tons per year with 1.1 tons per year. 1.1 divided by 4 Million = 2.75 E -7 = .000000275 =.0000275%. Remember that only 2% of that is U235. The nuclear power plant needs ~44 pounds of U235 per year. The coal fired power plant burns coal by the trainload. The nuclear power plant consumes U235 in such small quantities yearly that you could carry that much weight in a briefcase. The full fuel load and the years between fueling varies from reactor to reactor, but one truck can carry the weight of a full nuclear fuel load.
    See also: Oak Ridge National Laboratory Review

    The Association of Environmentalists for Nuclear Power

  9. Nuclear power is the safest kind, bar none, for everybody.

    Deaths per terrawatt year [twy] for energy industries, including
    Chernobyl. terra=mega mega [There are zero sources of energy
    that cause zero deaths, but not having the electricity causes the
    most deaths.]

    fuel……… ……..fatalities… …..who……… …….deaths per twy
    coal……… ………6400…… ……workers……….. ………342
    natural gas….. ..1200…… …..workers and public… …85
    hydro…….. …….4000….. …….public………… …………883
    nuclear…….. ………31…… ……workers………… ………….8

    Nuclear power is proven to be the safest. Source: “The Revenge
    of Gaia” by James Lovelock page 102. As you can see,
    psychological problems are preventing the wider use of nuclear

    I have no connection with the nuclear power industry. I have
    never had any connection with the nuclear power industry. I am
    not being paid by anyone to post on Alternet. My sole motive is
    to avoid death in the collapse of civilization and to avoid
    extinction due to global warming.

  10. Reference: “Google and the myth of universal knowledge” by Jean-Noel Jeanneney 2007

    Page 32: 62% of internet users questioned make no distinction whatever between advertising and other information, and only 18% proved capable of telling which data were paid for by companies for their promotion and which were not.”
    “92% of users of search engines have full confidence in the results of their search, and 71% (users for less than five years) consider that information from this source [Google] is never biased in any way.”

    Jean-Noel Jeanneney goes on to say that the NON-SPONSORED links ARE LISTED IN THE ORDER OF THE HIGHEST BIDDER to lowest bidder. Companies pay dollars to Google to get web sites other than their own that lie in favor of the paying company to be at the top of the “non-sponsored” list. Google search results in your getting nothing but corporate propaganda.

    Suggestion: Get a degree in science so that you can figure it out for yourself. While you are working on the degree, use only Google Advanced or Google Scholar. On Google Advanced, specify either the .gov domain or the .edu domain. George W. Bush messed up as many government web sites as he could get away with, but your chances are still clearly better than going to the richest propagandist .com or .org.

  11. A friend of mine from Oak Ridge National Laboratory wrote to me: “The reactor that had the accident at Chernobyl was very out-of-date (1st generation) design that has to be precisely controlled to prevent cooling water from boiling. Water carries away heat and moderates far better than bubbles, and as bubbles form in water, the reactor goes increasingly unstable. What caused Chernobyl to blow its top was residual water in the core suddenly going to high pressure steam and erupting into a steam explosion. Since the building top was simply resting by its weight on the walls, not a containment vessel at all, the steam explosion burped the top off its position allowing outside air in, subsequently igniting a carbon fire.” The United States and other Western countries DO NOT now build and do not now posses or operate ANY reactors of such primitive design. Nor do we allow containment buildings to have easily removable tops. Containment buildings in the Western hemisphere are required to be pressure vessels.
    The Chernobyl accident released less than 200 tons of radioactive material, as much as a coal-fired power plant would release in 7 years and 5 months. The Chernobyl accident had a shorter “stack” than coal-fired power plants. The radioactive material was released in a short time at ground level. That is why the Chernobyl accident had impact. The Three Mile Island incident did NOT release a noticeable amount of radiation into its neighborhood because it had a good containment building and because it was a more modern design.
    The reason is that the Soviet Union didn’t spend money on R&D for nuclear safety. The US did. Over 60 years, American reactors have become so safe it is ridiculous. We have way overspent on nuclear reactor safety, driving up the cost of electricity. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, coal fired electric power plants kill 24,000 people per year in the US according to Discover magazine. Reactors built in the US in 2008 are nothing like the very first reactor ever, built in the US in 1944. Soviet built reactors were just copies of the 1944 reactor.
    The book: “Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy”, by B. Comby has more truthful information on this if you are interested. Don’t believe the urban legends that were started by coal companies. Order the book from:
    See: for more information on the book. Most books on the subject in most libraries may be there because of coal industry pressure.
    See also: “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007 Finally a truthful book about nuclear power. Gwyneth Cravens is a former anti-nuclear activist.
    “Power to Save the World” says on page 90: At Chernobyl, only 13 to 30% of the reactor’s 190 metric tons of fuel evaporated. .13X190=24.7 tons. .3X190=57 tons. [Much lower than the previous estimate of 200 tons, and trivial compared to what coal fired power plants give you.]

    I have no connection with the nuclear power industry. Nobody is paying me to post this. I have never worked for the nuclear power industry.