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War on Coal - Gains Steam Amid Wars on Terror - Crime - Drugs - Science - Christmas

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told reporters earlier this month that "there is no war on coal."

Read it as you like — as a true statement, or as exactly what you'd expect someone to say who's waging a war on coal. Either way, political warfare is preceding literal explosions, as utilities count demolition and redevelopment as options in a future projected to have reduced reliance on coal, the carbon-based fuel most dangerous to the climate.

Coal-fired power plants, particularly in the United States, are struggling to stave off two major offensives, from markets and governments. Abundant, inexpensive natural gas has made coal-burning less efficient. Government regulation — including U.S. limits on mercury pollution and potential rules on carbon dioxide pollution — can increase operating costs. "To me, that's kind of a vise that's gripping the utility industry on two sides," said Richard Martin, editorial director of Navigant Research.

For these reasons, many coal plants will close in the next several years, according to a Navigant Research report published last week. Engineering, demolition and remediation companies stand to win what's expected to be more than $400 million in revenue this year from coal-plant decommissioning in North America, the Eurozone and the U.K. That revenue stream will top out at more than $1.2 billion in 2016, the study projects, before easing back down as the number of old coal-plants declines.

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