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Economy and Business


Consol's move from coal to gas is likely to be followed by much more
The price of natural gas is far more telling than a political "War on Coal"
Story by BRIAN BULL


 
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In The Region:

One major energy player is shifting its focus away from coal, and more on natural gas. As Brian Bull of OPR member station WCPN reports, Consol Energy may be leading the industry towards an inevitable trend.

LISTEN: Switching from coal to natural gas

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Earlier this week, Consol Energy announced it’s selling its Consolidated Coal Company subsidiary to Murray Energy. That’s amounts to half of its coal production.  The sale is expected to be finalized by year’s end.

Consol officials say now they’ll boost natural-gas production by 30 percent annually through 2016 in the Utica and Marcellus Shale plays, much of it in Ohio. 

Andrew Kear, a political science professor at Bowling Green State University says “Consol Energy is leading the way.” For all the industry talk about a “War on Coal” being waged by politicians, natural gas has been gaining ground in the energy industry because it’s competitively priced, and emits less carbon dioxide than coal. 

“With respect to natural gas, the EPA isn’t regulating it as stringently, and neither are the states.  And so companies like Consol Energy realize that the easier path for energy development is natural gas at the state level and at the federal level. The writing’s on the wall coal-fired power plants; their days in a sense, are numbered in the U.S.”

Kear says in the last three years, 150 coal-fired plants have shut down in the U.S. But there will still be some demand to sustain coal for a while.  He says China will likely be a hungry customer as it continues its push for industrialization.

Meanwhile, Consol’s latest report says it’s drilled 15 horizontal shale wells in the Utica and Marcellus Shale in the third quarter of this year.

 

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