By Steve Fiscor Publisher & Editor-in-Chief

Welcome to the first edition of 2024. The Top 10 Coal Producing States and Regions table (see News, p. 7) provides production data from the Energy Information Administration and it indicates 572 million tons as of December 23, 2023. With an additional eight days remaining in the month, total coal production could be extrapolated to 585 million tons or more. The U.S. still mines a lot of coal.

It’s also wintertime here in the northern hemisphere and much to everyone’s surprise bitter cold has set in again. The banter about reliability is heating up with grid operators wringing their hands over how they will provide reliable power when their gas and renewable sources fail. Nothing says energy security like a large coal stockpile.

The U.S. is not alone in this conundrum of being blessed with natural resources and unable to use them. During December, the Canadian Province of Alberta had to beg Saskatchewan for a couple of hundred megawatts (see World News, p. 9). Alberta is blessed with abundant resources, including coal, natural gas and oil sands. In pursuit of unattainable climate goals, it retired much of its fossil fuel-fired capacity and Saskatchewan did not. This is happening in a lot of places.

This edition also carries an article about Sev.en Global Investments (see p. 16). I had the opportunity to discuss investment strategies with the CEO Alan Svoboda. Sev.en GI is investing in ‘ESG-deprived industries.’ That’s climate speak for fossil fuel industries. Many banks and investment firms no longer want to be associated with coal because it runs counter to their environmental, social and governance (ESG) mandates. They have been green shamed by the anti-carbon movement into placing their money elsewhere. As they abandon these industries, someone must run the power plants and provide coal to the steel mills. Wealthy private investors are buying these assets and providing the liquidity they need, because they can see the long-term value.

When it comes to ESG and sustainability, let the record reflect that Arch Resources’ Leer coal mine in West Virginia was the first mine of any type to achieve Level A verification for the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining initiative (see News, p. 7). With all the battery-electric mining equipment running on hydroelectricity in Ontario, a coal mine in the U.S. set the standard. Hats off to the Leer mine!

As this edition was going to press, Alliance Resource Partners released its Q4 2023 results (see Leading Developments, p. 5). In it, the company’s CEO Joe Craft said, …we should all take notice that grid planners have nearly doubled 5-year load growth forecasts…” Where will this power originate? Renewables can’t keep pace and permitting delays will likely prevent new capacity from coming online anytime soon. The world is facing a big disconnect with reality when it comes to future energy demand and production, and it needs to find ways to burn coal more cleanly.