The President of the National Mining Association says there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of coal globally.
“The world is growing and developing nations are growing at an unprecedented pace with urbanization, industrialization and they’re turning to coal for that,” Hal Quinn said on Tuesday’s MetroNews Talkline.
“That’s why coal will surpass oil, in the next several years, as the primary energy source.” Quinn says that change could happen as early as 2015.
He references a global outlook for coal and minerals which makes that prediction. The composite analysis put together for the National Mining Association estimates the amount of coal contributing to the U.S. electricity demand will grow by 45 million tons over 2012 levels.
Quinn says there is also more and more demand for coal out of China, India and Mexico, along with parts of Europe where gas prices are high right now, including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The U.S. could export 111 million tons of coal this year with a lot of that coal coming from West Virginia.
Overall, the outlook says the domestic use of coal is expected to rise because of improvements in the U.S. economy, cooler weather and natural gas prices that are projected to increase by more than 20%.
Quinn says those natural gas prices, which have been at historical lows recently, have to go up at some point.
“The (natural gas) prices are so low, you can’t really sustain the investment over a long period of time to keep bringing that gas to market. Investors want a return on their investment,” he said.
But, he says, a full rebound for coal will take time. “It’s not to say that everything’s going to turn right overnight,” Quinn said.
“We’re seeing, right now, a stabilization, what we view in 2013 will be part of the stabilization of coal, the readjustment of coal to a different marketplace. But we think the strengths, in the long term, are there.”
Quinn says he’s hoping the federal Environmental Protection Agency will work more with the coal industry during President Barack Obama’s second term in office to allow for continued coal growth. He says public policy should not limit coal’s potential.
Even with fewer coal fired power plants in the future, he says higher efficiency coal based power plants could have larger output rates and lower emissions.
In the United States, “We have the largest coal reserves. We have the most of what everybody else needs and wants and we have the capability of delivering it if we have the type of policy framework that allows us to perform to our potential,” Quinn said.