US Coal Companies Reap Windfall From Australian Climate Catastrophe

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How ironic! The effects of climate change might turn out to create a windfall for some of the very same fossil energy companies that are essentially also causing climate change. US coal companies have seen record profits, higher exports and soaring prices as Australian coal companies have had their production curtailed by the floods that inundated an area the size of Texas, which included some key coal mining regions. (Australia’s Catastrophic Floods Shut Down Coal Exports)

“Are we pushing the price? You’re damn straight we are,” said Bob Pusateri, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based Consol Energy Inc., which operates 18 mines across six U.S. states told Bloomberg News. “If there is a short-term phenomenon because of weather-related issues, the coal companies are going to take advantage of it.”

About 15 million to 20 million tons of coal may be lost from Australia because of the flooding. The loss is exacerbated by more of what the coal industry calls “inclement weather” in other coal exporters.  South Africa faces the worst flooding in decades, and Columbia has the heaviest rains in history, and Indonesia has the same record warming seas that have exacerbated the same La Nina, causing record flooding and cyclones, like Australia. (Climate Change: Worst Cyclone in History Follows Queensland Floods)

Coal stocks rose on the news. Alpha gained 26 percent in the past year to $55.34 a share. Walter soared 66 percent to $127.09. International Coal more than doubled to $9.57.

Although US domestic coal use is dropping about 0.8 percent this year, by contrast, demand is rising 3.6 percent this year in China for steelmaking coal shipped by sea, as China’s own coal mines run short.

So coal companies benefit from the sort of chaotic climate disruption that ever since the First IPPC Summary in 1990 climate scientists have predicted with ever increasing certainty as the likely effects of loading more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, for the last 20 years now. That is while Australian government costs rise to cope with the floods. (First Continent to Raise a Tax to Cover the Costs of Climate Change)

But even more ironically, Australia’s floods will also have the effect of helping President Obama’s goal of boosting US exports.

Coal is hardly the green 21st century technology export the President had in mind, no doubt. The only consolation may be that at least in China, these US coal exports will be burned more cleanly in new power plants that are cleaner and more up to date than the old croakers our poor plutocracy has kept grandfathering-in to evade EPA rules through the last 40 years.

(Australian Government 2004 summary of scientific papers on regional climate change)

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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