Coal Production to Set Record, Officials Say
Dec. 14, 1990
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ U.S. coal production and consumption should top more than 1 billion tons for the first time in 1990, marking the fourth consecutive record year, industry officials said Friday.
''What we have seen is consistent, steady growth from year to year,'' said John Grasser, spokesman for the National Coal Association in Washington. ''It's not what you'd call robust and dramatic, but it's steady growth.''
The industry group's forecast predicts 1990 production will reach 1.02 billion tons, 41 million tons more than the record 981 million tons produced in 1989, Grasser said.
The 4.2 percent increase in bituminous, subbituminous, lignite and anthracite production is the largest year-to-year increase since 1983 and 1984, he said.
''This is just that natural steady progression from year to year,'' Grasser said. ''Eighty percent of the coal goes to the utility sector. That's obviously our largest customer and that's where we've seen the largest growth.''
He said demand was helped by an increase in exports to foreign customers and an unusually high demand for utility stockpiles.
West Virginia, the nation's third largest producer, was running nearly 14 percent ahead of last year's production figures through October with 144.2 million tons mined, said Kathy Sloan of the state Division of Energy.
Wyoming has ranked No. 1 in coal production since 1988. Kentucky passed West Virginia as the leading producer in 1972.
''From what industry officials tell me, we have a pretty decent shot at coming even with Kentucky and maybe even passing it,'' said Mark Polen, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association. ''It's going to be pretty close.''
While 1990 will be remembered as a banner year for the coal industry, Grasser said the outlook for 1991 isn't quite as positive.
''We are predicting a flat or even slight decline next year due in part to the recession and the slowing of the economy,'' Grasser said.
National Coal Association forecasts for 1991 predict that production will decline by 1.47 percent, while consumption will increase by 1 percent.
However, Richard Lawson, president of the National Coal Association, said the Persian Gulf crisis may help the industry next year.
''The recent and volatile increase in oil prices could have a positive effect on coal burn next year, especially if the Middle East situation is not resolved quickly,'' Lawson said.
Recently enacted clean air legislation also could begin having some effects on the coal industry, officials said.
''It's dicey to predict how that act is going to work because we're not sure how the utility companies will respond to it,'' Polen said.