Region’s Coal Seeks Asian Markets

Aaron Flint posted on November 18, 2010 08:16 :: 1766 Views

Last week, when the newspaper in Gillette, WY snapped a picture of Bill Gates stepping onto his jet in Gillette, everyone wondered what Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were doing in the small Northeastern Wyoming town. 

Facebook accounts said the two were touring a nearby coal mine. 

Then this article  (AP) comes out, detailing the desire of Montana and Wyoming coal producers to gain better access to the Asian markets. 

The coal industry is maneuvering to sharply ramp up its U.S. exports to Asia out of the West Coast, with the first of several potential port expansions along the Columbia River now before officials in Washington state.

A shortage of coal-capable ports has so far hampered export plans. Most of the coal from Western mines is currently funneled through a single facility in Vancouver, Canada.

Despite that infrastructure bottleneck, exports to Asia during the first six months of the year increased almost 400 percent versus 2009, to 9.5 million tons.

Immediately one thinks of Warren Buffett’s new role with BNSF railway, and in addition whatever influence or role Bill Gates could play in helping to open up access to our region’s coal in Washington state.   

The need for access to the Asian market isn’t necessarily a new concept.  It’s been pretty clear that we don’t intend to burn American coal here in the US with any new power plants, even as China and other parts of Asia are moving their economies forward through use of the traditionally cheap energy supply. 

This news ties in with another article from Bloomberg News detailing how the actions by The Federal Reserve appear to be simply increasing investment outside the US.  Although, you can’t blame the Fed alone when our nation’s own tax and regulatory policy is hindering domestic investment.  

Nonetheless, Bloomberg News details investments by one large mining company- investments made not here in the US, but rather in Mexico and Peru.

Southern Copper’s plans illustrate why the Fed’s second round of bond buying may not reduce unemployment, which has stalled near a 26-year high. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his colleagues appear to be fueling a foreign-investment surge, underscoring the difficulty of stimulating the economy through monetary policy with interest rates already near record lows.

“You’re seeing leakage from quantitative easing,” said Stephen Wood, chief market strategist for Russell Investments in New York, which has $140 billion under management. “That leakage is going into emerging markets, commodity-based economies, commodities themselves and non-U.S. opportunities.”

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