Paul Bonnifield: It's basic competition


In his letter “The assault on coal” (Tuesday’s Steamboat Today), Karl Koehler let his politics get in his way. The greatest threat to coal, and especially coal mined in Routt County, is natural gas. There is an oversupply of natural gas that is forcing the price of gas down. With more drilling, the price will continue to fall.

To get coal out of the ground requires a large labor force and millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. All gas requires is a hole in the ground and natural pressure. At the Twentymile Coal Mine, coal is handled at least three times and usually more before it is loaded on a train. Natural gas simply is piped into a pipeline. Shipping coal by rail requires a large labor force and expensive equipment. Shipping gas requires a pipeline under pressure and a small labor force. Natural gas can be burned in the same way it arrives at the power plant. Coal must be unloaded, stockpiled, moved out of the stockpile, crushed and then burned. After it is burned, the ash must be removed and buried.

The greatest threat to coal is basic economics: supply, demand, quality and price. Proposed EPA regulations are not the basic problem. For coal mines in Routt County to survive, they must find an economic response to natural gas; it is basic competition.

Paul Bonnifield



mark hartless 4 years, 6 months ago

Actually Nat Gas bottomed and has risen subsatntially in the last 6-8 months. Even at its current very low price, Nat Gas-generated electricity is still more expensive than coal-fired production.

As Nat Gas-fired power plants start comming online gas prices will rise, not fall.

Converting to a Nat Gas electric base would likely cause electric rates to rise by 70-110%.

But that's still a dream-come-true bargain when compared to wind and solar, even if they worked, which they do not. Converting to wind and solar, even if they worked would cause electric rates to increase many many times more than Nat Gas.

Compared to wind and solar, and when calculating the net benefits to air quality, Nat Gas generated electricity can, will, and shoould be a big part of electric production going forward. It is correctly referred to as a bridge fuel which can span the gulf between our hopes for renewables of the future and our dependance on coal today.


Gary Burkholder 4 years, 6 months ago

  I believe that Paul is the one letting his political bias get in the way.Or maybe he just doesn't know what he is talking about. He doesn't mention the burden of the over bearing Government agency MSHA. MSHA is Obama's secret weapon and he uses it very effectively to fine the coal mine for noncompliance to laws that have nothing to do with health or safety. MSHA make the EPA look like a bunch of amateurs. Mr. Koehler backs up his letters with facts not just opinions.
  I would like to bring to every ones attention that the coal mine,railroad and power plant are the largest tax payers and pay the most wages in the county. If the mine shuts down there is no reason to keep a railroad. It wouldn't be economically feasible. How would we pay for the higher cost of smaller gravel on the pavement,or the free bus rides.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.