Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Coal war' with Beijing next hit on U.S. economy

The next serious crisis for Americans could be a lack of coal to run the power plants that light up computer screens, heat microwave dinners and turn on the big-screen televisions, according to experts on the issue.

The situation is that hundreds of millions of people in nations like China are moving rapidly from the Stone Age to the 21st century as American dollars have flooded that part of the world, and officials have been struggling frantically to make enough power to run all of the gadgets the new lifestyle includes.

Similar circumstances also are developing in India and places like Indonesia, and the demand is sending the expense of coal through the ceiling, making relatively insignificant President Obama's promise during his 2008 election campaign that he wanted to regulate those who build coal mines and coal-fired power plants until they were bankrupt.

Demand has surged to such levels that in some places, workers have been giving up their regular jobs to go and hand-dig coal from the ground and haul it to market in old bathtubs.

The experts suggest that Americans even could see power shortages because of the demand, and resulting price, of coal.

Bill Heid, chief of Solutions from Science, which provides answers for consumers concerned about the reliability and availability of energy, says some power producers, in fact, are being forced to pay prices for coal that are forcing them into a loss.

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