We're about to export liquefied natural gas, but the coal industry is in trouble

Earlier today I was really scrambling to find some good news for you and not having much luck. Then, just in the nick of time, I saw this article over at the Daily Caller which reminded me that there are still a few glints of silver lining in the darkest clouds. A special tanker has arrived in Louisiana this week and it’s getting ready to get underway with some cargo which should have a very positive impact on the US economy and brighten the situation for our allies around the world. We’re getting ready to ship out our first delivery of liquefied natural gas. (LNG)

The tanker that will carry the first shipment of American liquefied natural (LNG) gas arrived in Louisiana Tuesday, symbolizing America’s status as a major new supplier to Asia and Europe.

Exporting natural gas is likely to be a growth industry, as global demand for natural gas is expected to be 50 percent higher by 2035 than it is now, according to the International Energy Agency. American LNG exports are likely to significantly reduce energy costs in Asia and Europe.

As they explain in the article, Barack Obama was opposed to to LNG exports until the past year or so, but international events may have prompted him to see the light. One of the biggest areas of impact could have been the Russian occupation of Crimea. We found very little support in Europe for opposing the move because the Russians control the flow of natural gas over there. With more energy options on the table and the chance to do business with a friend rather than a foe, we might have a bit more leverage over Russia in the future.

But just as we get the good news, some more disturbing tidings come our way as well. Our work on natural gas and crude oil is producing abundant supplies across the board, but the coal industry is in trouble thanks to the ongoing attacks of the EPA and the Obama administration. Are they having any effect? You might think so since America’s second largest coal producer has filed for bankruptcy.

Decreased demand for coal has prompted the second largest US coal producer to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday in a last ditch effort to cut $4.5 billion in debt from its doles.

Missouri-based Arch Coal is proposing a debt-for-equity swap with first-lien lenders holding more than 50 percent of the company’s first-lien $1.9 billion debt. The move would, the company says, essentially leave most of the company in the hands those lenders. Other creditors owed billions of dollars would be allowed other options.

Arch’s inability to avoid a bankruptcy through debt exchange prompted the company to issue warnings that it would be forced to file Chapter 11.

There are competing forces at play here. It’s true that burdensome regulations and bad publicity from the administration have done some damage, but coal is also in direct competition with natural gas (and to a limited extent, oil) in certain market segments. We’ve seen a series of coal fired plants making the expensive but eventually profitable switch from coal to natural gas, reducing the market for the more traditional fuel. Other power plants which are unable to manage the switch have announced that they will simply close. That’s cutting down the market for coal and making life harder for the producers. Unfortunately, that’s the free market for you, but it’s sad to see an industry which has provided so many jobs and so much energy for all these generations falling on hard times.