U.S. coal prices top $200 for the first time as the global energy crisis boosts demand for the dirtiest fossil fuel.
According to data released on Monday by the US Energy Information Administration, spot coal prices from Central Appalachians rose to $204.95 per ton in the week ended September 30, the highest in 2005.
Coal remains the main fuel for US power plants, and rising prices will increase pressure on US households, which are already struggling with record high electricity bills. According to the National Association of Energy Relief Directors, about 20 million households across the country—or about one in six—have failed to pay their utility bills.
Coal prices have begun to rise as economies around the world have recovered from pandemic-related restrictions, pushing up demand for electricity faster than coal miners and natural gas producers have been able to increase supply for power plants. This was exacerbated as Russia's war in Ukraine turned energy markets upside down and power plants' demand for coal and natural gas continued to rise amid record summer heat.
Meanwhile, coal producers are working at full capacity and have no opportunity to increase production. Even if they could, clogged supply chains mean they'll have trouble delivering any extra tons. All of this is putting sustained upward pressure on prices, which have reached record highs in the US, Asia and Europe.