U.S. Coal Prices Soar To 12-Year High

Image Credit: iStock, Wang Meng

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If this keeps up, you may want coal in your stocking this Christmas.

That’s because the price of coal is the highest it has been since 2009, according to data from S&P Global released on Monday.

Raked Over It

Here’s proof the black, rocky fossil fuel isn’t extinct yet: With natural gas prices skyrocketing as demand for energy surges, coal-fired power is on track to jump 22 percent in 2021, its first year-over-year increase since 2014, according to the Energy Information Administration.

So it’s safe to say coal markets are — you guessed it — on fire:

  • Prices in the Central Appalachian region, which represents a key domestic benchmark, leaped $10 last week to $89.75 per short ton, or $3.59 per MMBtu’s (million British thermal units), the highest mark since 2009.
  • Power companies such as Duke Energy Corp. and Xcel Energy Inc. are already warning customers to expect a roughly $11-a-month increase on winter electricity bills.

Slow Burn: At the COP26 international climate summit last week, participating nations made a last-minute compromise to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal power. China and India still rely heavily on the reliably cheap energy, and overall coal still makes up one-third of the world’s energy usage.

Canary In the Coal Mine: Still, coal is likely on the way out domestically. The US has cut roughly 30% of coal-fired generation capacity since 2010, and no new plants have opened since 2013. The Energy Information Administration expects a 5% usage dip in 2022, and the Biden administration has promised to remove all carbon from the power grid by 2035 and achieve net-zero admissions in the economy by 2050.