While coal demand for electric generation is expected to increase, recent environmental suits could give alternative fuels an edge.
The future of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly uncertain as witnessed by new environmental regulations and legal proceedings. Last year was a benchmark period, as environmentalists and the federal government separately filed lawsuits to further control surface mining in West Virginia and coal-fired emissions, respectively. Despite these developments, the use of coal for electric generation continues to grow. Indeed, Resource Data International's study, "The Outlook for Coal and Competing Fuels," forecasts coal demand from the power generation sector to increase 12 percent by 2020.