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A coal-fired power plant in Castle Dale, Utah. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

The brief selective default of Ohio-based coal company Murray Energy brought the total number of global corporate defaults to 27 this year, 19 of which have come from the U.S., with 4 in the metals and mining space, S&P Global said.

Why it matters: "The metals, mining, and steel sector is off to a rocky start this year with four defaults, already surpassing last year's full-year tally of three," Diane Vazza, head of S&P Global Fixed Income Research, said in a note last week. "Two of the four defaulters in the sector are U.S. coal producers."

The big picture: This is a long-running theme in the coal industry. In 2010, coal-fired power plants provided 45% of U.S. electricity generation, according to a report from The Week. In September, there were almost 200 fewer coal plants and they provided 30% of the country's electricity. Many more plants are set to be shuttered in the next 5 years.

  • The EIA said in December expects total U.S. coal consumption in 2018 to fall to the lowest level since 1979. U.S. coal consumption has been falling since 2007, mainly driven by declines in coal use in the electric power sector.
  • The U.S. expects dozens more coal plant closures this year, including the Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal-fired plant in the western U.S., which provides power to Arizona, Nevada and California.

What they're saying: Paul Browning, CEO and president of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas, which makes technology for electricity, including coal, echoed what most other U.S. energy executives are saying.

  • "There is really nothing happening from a new coal power plant power point of view in the Americas," Browning told Axios' Amy Harder on the sidelines of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference last week in New York. "New coal-fired generation is really in decline and it's a sectoral decline, not cyclical. It's driven principally by climate change concerns and natural gas and renewables becoming more affordable."

Watch this space: The U.S. so far accounts for 70% of the world's defaults in 2019, followed by emerging markets with 15%. Bankruptcy is the leading cause of defaults, per S&P.

Editor's note: This piece was updated with new details from S&P, which now says its report shows Murray Electric was in default at the time but now has a forward-looking rating of CCC+. It also corrects the use of the word "corporate failures" with "defaults."

Go deeper

27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans unveil $568 billion infrastructure counterproposal

Sens. John Barasso and Shelley Moore Capito. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Republicans formally rolled out the framework for their $568 billion counterproposal to President Biden's $2.5 trillion infrastructure plan on Thursday.

Why it matters: The package is far narrower than anything congressional Democrats or the White House would agree to, but it serves as a marker for what Republicans want out of a potential bipartisan deal.

House passes bill that would make D.C. the 51st state

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House of Representatives voted 216-208 on Thursday to pass a bill that would grant statehood to Washington, D.C.

The big picture: It's the second year in a row that the Democratic-controlled House has voted to recognize D.C. as the 51st state. The bill now heads to a divided Senate, where it faces little chance of reaching the 60 votes necessary to send to President Biden's desk.

Dueling Van Gogh exhibits cause confusion across America

Photo: David Gray/AFP via Getty Images

Will the real Vincent Van Gogh please stand up? "Immersive Van Gogh" is coming to Orlando this fall. It's not the same as "Van Gogh Alive" at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg. And definitely not "Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience" coming to Miami.

What's happening: If you're confused, so are other people who keep thinking they're buying tickets to the same exhibit.