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Editorial comment

We take a look at the global coal trade in this month’s issue of World Coal. Our regional report focuses on China, whose dominance of world coal demand is undimmed. However, it will not be all plain sailing for the Asian behemoth, as our correspondent, Ng Weng Hoong, reports. Demand for coal is outstripping demand and prices remain high. This is hitting the Chinese power industry – where prices are capped by the Government – hard, making it even more difficult to meet the country’s vast and increasing demand for electricity.

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Beyond Chinese demand, this month’s contributors throw up a few new trends and interesting possibilities. In their excellent article (p. 16), Richard Morse and Dr Lars Schernikau analyse the changing tides in the Asian coal trade, and particularly the possibility that the US may become a major supplier of coal into the region. There are many challenges to overcome before this happens but, given the present uncertainties surrounding the US coal-fired power industry, US coal miners are increasingly looking east (see also the article from James Meredeth, globalCOAL, p. 34). Morse and Schernikau also dedicate a section to Government price caps in the power industries of both China and India, looking at the (unexpected) impacts these could have on imports.

Meanwhile, the consequences of the Japanese nuclear disaster are analysed by Dr Hans-Wilhelm Schiffer of RWE AG. The disaster has had far reaching consequences and done inestimable damage to a nuclear industry that was enjoying something of a renaissance. Coal is, of course, a natural replacement and will surely pick up some of the slack caused by the popular (if irrational) backlash against the nuclear industry.

Overall, despite the continued coal-bashing indulged in by sections of the press and political classes, the industry is in pretty good shape. If anything, miners can’t seem to get the coal out of the ground fast enough – and won’t be able to for some time yet.

Changing tack, World Coal will be trotting the globe this month as the Autumn conference season continues apace. We will be at both the Coaltrans World Coal Conference in Madrid, Spain, and the China Coal and Mining Expo in Beijing, China. Do remember to look us up if you’re attending either of these events.