US coal prices climb past $200 as global energy crunch boosts demand

Coal trains near the North Antelope Rochelle mine in Wyoming, the largest coal mine in the world. (Image by KimonBerlin, Wikimedia Commons).

US coal prices surged past $200 for the first time as a global energy crunch drives up demand for the dirtiest fossil fuel.

Spot prices for coal from Central Appalachia rose to $204.95 a ton for the week ending Sept. 30, the highest in records dating to 2005, according to data released Monday by the US Energy Information Administration.

Coal remains a leading fuel in US power plants, and the soaring prices will ratchet up pressure on US homes already struggling with record-high electricity bills. About 20 million household across the country — or about one in six — have fallen behind on their utility bills, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association.

Coal prices began surging as economies around the world recovered from pandemic lockdowns, driving up demand for electricity faster than coal miners and natural gas producers could boost supply for power plants. That was exacerbated when Russia’s war in Ukraine upended energy markets, and power-plant demand for coal and natural gas has continued to rise amid record summer heat.

Meanwhile, coal producers are running at full-tilt and have little ability to boost output. Even if they could, clogged supply chains mean they would have trouble delivering any additional tons. All of that is putting steady, upward pressure on prices, which have surged to records in the US, Asia and Europe.

(By Will Wade)


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