The balance of the US coal industry may be tilting in the direction of the MidWest from Appalachia.
The Huffington Post/Reuters reports that as coal mining slows in the eastern coal belt, coal-fired power plants using more efficient scrubbing technology are making Illinois Basin coal competitive again.
Production there has shrunk in the last two decades due to environmental concerns over the high-sulphur content of its coal, says Reuters:
The game changer was the advance of anti-pollution scrubber technology that allows burning high-sulphur coal with fewer pollutant emissions, analyst (William) Burns (from Johnson Rice in New Orleans) said.
Burns noted that the Illinois Basin was the region most affected by the Clean Air Act and subsequent amendments that set federal controls on air pollution.
Symbols of the MidWest coal revival include the Bear Run mine in Indiana, which US coal giant Peabody Energy opened two years ago, Peabody's new Wild Boar mine, also in Indiana, and an expansion of its Gateway mine in southern Illinois.
Business Insider reported last year that the heart of the American coal industry, Central Appalachia, could soon be a shadow of its former self.
According to the US Department of Energy, the amount of Appalachian coal will be less than half that mined in 2008 within the next three years, says BI, because most of the easy-to-reach resources have been exhausted.
The blog also points to a report from AP warning of economic devastation should the industry shrink in the area where coal mining accounts for 40% of the workforce in some towns.