With oil prices touching $100 a barrel again and the ongoing drive to develop affordable alternative fuels, coal has reemerged as a major opportunity area in the energy sector. Coal futures, for instance, have soared 83% in the past six months.
Worldwide, coal is the largest source of electricity generation, accounting for over 40% of power supply. Although coal is one of the dirtiest energy sources -- emitting carbon dioxide, ash and sulfur -- many companies and entrepreneurs are working on ways to make coal cleaner and more environmentally friendly.
Evergreen Energy, for example, has developed a technology that uses heat and pressure to chemically and physically diminish some of the emissions caused by burning fuel.
Coal in the United States:
The United States holds the world’s largest coal reserves. Coal generates more than half of the energy produced here and is expected to remain a major energy source for several years to come. The US uses more than 95% of its coal for energy generation, while the remaining amount is used in industrial production or exported.
Thirty-eight states engage in mining practices with Wyoming, West Virginia, and Kentucky mining the most coal. One third of US coal is derived from the Central Appalachian region.
Leading Coal Producers:
Other coal facts (National Mining Association):
2006 Major Coal Players:
About two-thirds of all coal is transported via railroads. Part two of this research will focus on some of the players in the railroad industry that stand to benefit from the increasing demand for coal energy.
Sources: Energy Information Association EIA, National Mining Association, The Economist