Coal ships clog Hampton Roads
A curious scene awaits onlookers viewing the waters of Hampton Roads -- at least 18 ships swing at anchor waiting for dock space to export U.S. coal.
The last time as many coal ships were lining up at Virginia's largest port in such a way was back in 1979 when the Iranian political crisis touched off a spike in global petroleum prices. Back then as many as 150 ships waited for dock space at coal piers in Norfolk and Newport News.
This time, however, the reason for the back-up is different. Despite the global recession, the building boom in China and other Asian countries has generated great demand for U.S. metallurgical coal, primarily from the fields of West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that coking coal exports shot up to 55 million tons in 2010, an increase of more than 30 percent from 2009.
Other factors for the boom are floods that shut down Australian coal mines.
It seem strange that demand is so strong for a product that seems so 19th century. But it is, despite worries about climate change, mine safety and mountaintop removal.
| February 21, 2011; 5:39 PM ET
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Posted by: lowpdop | February 21, 2011 8:11 PM | Report abuse