What the frack is happening? Americans are using less coal than ever thanks to our burgeoning supplies of natural gas. Meanwhile green worshiping Europe has been importing more American coal to power its electric plants.
Europe is burning coal at the fastest pace since 2006, as surging imports from U.S. producers such as Arch Coal Inc. (ACI) (ACI) helped cut prices 26 percent in a year and benefited European power companies including EON AG
Demand for coal, the dirtiest fuel for making electricity, grew 3.3 percent last year in Europe while sales of less- polluting natural gas fell 2.1 percent, the steepest drop since 2009, according to a BP Plc report. Germany's EON and RWE AG (RWE), the biggest utilities in Europe's largest power market, are considering shutting unprofitable gas-fired plants even as Chancellor Angela Merkel promotes gas to replace nuclear energy.
It seems the forces of Gaia are no match for the laws of supply and demand.
Gas-fired plants need about half the carbon permits of coal burners. Even so, the 17 percent drop in permit prices to about 8 euros a ton ($10) from their February high has reduced their competitive advantage.
"Even if they were twice the current level, utilities would prefer coal over gas for power generation," said Paolo Coghe, senior analyst at Societe Generale SA in Paris.
European utilities burning coal had a profit of 16.3 euros per megawatt-hour in the second quarter this year, compared with 9 euros a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Industries. Plants using gas as a fuel only broke even in the quarter.
The losers here are Europe's suppliers of natural gas, the largest of which is Russia's Gazprom.
Hat tip: Walter Russell Meade