Coal Seen as New Tobacco Sparking Investor Backlash

So, American lawmakers don’t get it, but an increasing number of investors do:  coal burning will drive the world to ruin, as cigarette smoking sowed havoc in lungs around the world.  Owning shares in coal industries may be a lose-lose propostion.

From Bloomberg News

About $8 trillion of known coal reserves lie beneath the earth’s surface. The companies planning to mine and burn them are being targeted by a growing group of investors concerned with the greenhouse gases that will be made.

Storebrand ASA (STB), which manages $74 billion of assets from Norway, sold out of 24 coal and oil-sands companies since July including Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU), the largest U.S. coal producer, citing a desire to cut fossil-fuel industry holdings. This month Norway’s opposition Labour Party proposed banning the country’s $800 billion sovereign wealth fund from coal investments.


Future curbs on carbon emissions beyond 2020 may cut valuations on coal assets by as much as 44 percent, according to HSBC Holdings Plc.

“There is the beginnings of divestment out of pure play coal by some investors,” Nick Robins, head of HSBC’s climate change center of excellence in London, said in a Nov. 12 phone interview. “There’s been a very marked rise in concern about this issue. There’s a recognition that as you move to a low-carbon economy that coal is potentially most vulnerable.”

In related news the U K has joined the US and others, along with “international financial institutions in ending public financing for new coal-fired power plants overseas, except in rare cases where no alternatives are available.”

Peak Coal?

There has been for some time a notion of Peak Oil — that new finds of oil and new technologies to extract deeper and cheaper have peaked. Now, the Wall Street Journal puts in its front page a major story about worries in the coal industry that, as a graph is titled, there may be “Peak Coal.”

WSJ front-page shocker: “U.S. Foresees a Thinner Cushion of Coal,” warns rosy U.S. coal estimates “may be wildly overconfident”

Mining companies report they have to dig deeper and move more earth to extract coal from aging mines, driving up costs. Utilities have grown skittish about whether suppliers can ship promised coal on time. American Electric Power Co., the nation’s biggest coal buyer, says it has stepped up its due diligence to make sure its suppliers can make deliveries after some firms missed shipments last fall. It even bought a mine to lock down supplies.

“We are very much concerned, and it’s getting worse,” said Tim Light, senior vice president for AEP.

via Climate Progress

invest in solar now….

Critters Crunch Coal, Fart Methane

“Luca Technologies, a startup based in Golden, CO, has raised $76 million to scale up a process that uses coal-digesting microorganisms to convert coal into methane. The process is designed to operate underground, inside coal beds. Methane, the key component of natural gas, can then be pumped out and used to generate electricity or power vehicles.

If the process proves economical, it could help reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, since burning natural gas releases half as much carbon dioxide as does burning coal.”

Coal Eating Microbes

Of course methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, though it stays in the atmosphere much less time. We’d like to see the numbers crunched before these critters are given the jack-up juice to make them out compete their methane suppressing cousins.