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Coal exports in the north-west: Dirty war


Yet still they come

MITT ROMNEY’S charge that America had declared “war on coal” may not have won him last year’s presidential election. Yet this once-mighty industry is struggling, squeezed by the plummeting cost of natural gas and a torrent of tough new environmental rules. Last year 37.4% of American electricity production came from coal, down from 48.5% in 2007. The Energy Information Administration expects a slight rise this year as gas prices begin to creep up. But further restrictions on power-station emissions are expected, and the shale revolution is marching on. If coal has a future, it is surely elsewhere.For many, that means Asia. Demand for coal imports is growing in post-Fukushima Japan, as it decreases its reliance on nuclear power; in India, where domestic supplies cannot keep up with the growing economy; and, most tantalisingly, in China, which burns almost half the world’s coal, and which became a net importer of the stuff in 2009.Such facts make mouths water in the Powder River Basin, straddling Wyoming and Montana (see map), where more than 40% of America’s coal is mined. Some already makes its way to Asia, mainly via…

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