Dec 18, 2017

Coal still isn't expected to make a lasting comeback

Section boss Carrey VanBuren watches as a continuous mining machine breaks through a wall of coal at the Horizon Coal Mine outside Helper, Utah. Photo: George Frey / AP

White House regulatory rollbacks and higher natural gas prices have brightened the mood of the U.S. coal industry, but it still faces major headwinds and production is not heading for a multi-year resurgence, the International Energy Agency said in its just-released five-year market report.

Why it matters: The analysis signals that while White House efforts to revive the coal industry might have some success in limiting its decline in the U.S., a return to the fuel's once-dominant position isn't in the offing.

IEA projects that U.S. production will be around 510 million tons of coal equivalent in 2022, around the same as current levels. Demand declines around one percent annually but the U.S. remains a "swing supplier" in global markets.

The U.S. industry's mood has "brightened" and some new production projects were announced in 2017, but that said . . .

  • "[S]luggish power demand, abundant gas supply and renewables growth are expected to continue to generate headwinds for coal use and limit the prospects for any resurgence in construction of new coal power plants," IEA notes.

Big picture: Global coal consumption is forecast to see very small growth of around 0.5 percent annually through 2022, while it loses ground slightly as a share of global energy supply as other sources are tapped to meet rising demand.

Overall, coal's share of worldwide power generation specifically is expected to be slightly under 36 percent in 2022, which is the lowest percentage since IEA began compiling statistics over 40 years ago.

Coal use in China, by far the world's largest coal consumer, peaked in 2013 and declines very slightly during the five-year analysis period, while India sees the largest increase in absolute terms as its coal-fired power generation is predicted to grow four percent annually through 2022.

Go deeper: A detailed summary of the report is available here.

Go deeper

Exclusive: Trump's "Deep State" hit list

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: WPA Pool/Getty Pool, Drew Angerer/Getty Staff

The Trump White House and its allies, over the past 18 months, assembled detailed lists of disloyal government officials to oust — and trusted pro-Trump people to replace them — according to more than a dozen sources familiar with the effort who spoke to Axios.

Driving the news: By the time President Trump instructed his 29-year-old former body man and new head of presidential personnel to rid his government of anti-Trump officials, he'd gathered reams of material to support his suspicions.

Exclusive: Anti-Sanders campaign targets black South Carolina voters

Courtesy of The Big Tent Project

The Big Tent Project, a Democratic political group focused on promoting moderate presidential candidates, has sent hundreds of thousands of mailers bashing Bernie Sanders to black voters in South Carolina who voted in the state's 2016 primary.

Why it matters: Sanders' rise to the top of the pack, as dueling moderate candidates split their side of the vote, is worrying many in the Democratic political establishment who fear a socialist can't beat President Trump.

Inside the fight over FBI surveillance powers

Carter Page. Photo: Artyom Korotayev\TASS via Getty Images

Over the past year, President Trump has told senior administration officials, including Attorney General Bill Barr, that he wants a major overhaul of national security surveillance powers and the secret court that approves them.

Behind the scenes: In one such discussion last year about the need to reauthorize government authorities to surveil U.S. citizens, Trump went so far as to say he'd rather get rid of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) altogether.