Coal production in the Powder River Basin continues to decline for the second quarter in a row. Second-quarter financial results show that ARCH coal is down 22% from the second quarter of 2011, and Union Pacific, which transports coal from the Basin to utilities nationwide, shipped 18% less coal this quarter than the same time last year.
Executive Director of the Wyoming Mining Association, Marion Loomis, says the decrease of worldwide energy demand, the low price of natural gas, and mild weather all contribute to the slowdown. But, he says, “There’s a number of things happening that will determine what the future demand is going to be for Wyoming coal. But we’re confident that Wyoming coal is going to be a major supplier of energy for this nation for decades to come.”
Long-term, Loomis says production could grow if Southeastern US utilities switch from Appalachian coal to Wyoming coal due to new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and if producers start shipping more coal to Asian markets. Short-term, recent hot weather patterns nationwide could assist in the recovery.