Oil jumps the couch, can coal be far behind?

$102 per barrel, does anybody bid one-oh-three? Do I hear one-oh-five?
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor

$102 per barrel, does anybody bid one-oh-three? Do I hear one-oh-five? Not yet perhaps, but soon enough. Now the excuse for record oil prices: investors are buying oil as a hedge against inflation in the American economy. And some instability in Nigeria. Back in the old days it was gold that was a hedge, or my new fav, platinum. Lower US dollar values means higher commodity prices all round. Record crude oil prices are no longer worthy of headlines unless therre's more to the story, and in the energy biz these days, there's always more.

Coal's gong to be front and center of any future energy planning, purchasing or policies in the U.S. One very smart green tech exec told me recently he expects the U.S. to be largely fossil-fuel dependent for 150 years. That's going to mean a lot of coal burning and a lot of political attention on coal burning.

Right now the DOE says we get half our energy in the U.S. from coal. And we claim a quarter of the world's coal still in the ground. So, burn, baby, burn.

Future trends in liquid fuels may weaken the power of the petroleum industry over decades: biofuel, maybe electric cars, maybe even mass transit in major cities. But that will only increase the power of coal because it will be powering many thngs now dependent on natural gas or fuel oil. And the coal industry is getting ready, making sure they are not out-flanked by any pointy-headed regulators and populist pols. Lobby on, baby, lobby on.

What may be most interesting:do coal-fired companies get into nuclear power or will they try to play on public opposition to block further nuclear development?

Right now it's a whole lot easier to get a new coal plant built than a nuc. Just this week Missouri opted for more coal and more CO2 emissions. The state has only one nuclear power plant. And none have been built in the U.S. in over thirty years. Meanwhile the coal wars in Kansas continue, and the state legislature has yet to pass a bill forcing throuigh two coal-burning plants the state's EPA rejected. And it's not likely the governor of Kansas would sign any bill the legislature there can pass. Just one more example of why Big Coal needs to lobby up.

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