From Coal To Natural Gas: One Energy Giant Leans In A New Direction

Earlier this week, Consol Energy announced that it’s selling its Consolidated Coal Company subsidiary to Murray Energy. That’s amounts to half of its coal production. The sale is expected to be finalized by year’s end.

Consol officials say now they’ll boost natural gas production by 30 percent annually through 2016 in the Utica and Marcellus Shale plays, much of it in Ohio.

"Consol Energy is leading the way,” says Andrew Kear, a political science professor at Bowling Green State University who’s studied energy policy.

Kear says for all the industry talk about a “War on Coal” being waged by politicians, natural gas has been gaining ground in the energy industry because it’s largely been competitively priced, and also emits less carbon dioxide than coal.

“With respect to natural gas, the EPA isn’t regulating it as stringently, and neither are the states," says Kear. "And so companies like Consol Energy realize that the easier path for energy development is natural gas at the state level and at the federal level.

"But the writing’s on the wall coal-fired power plants. Their days in a sense, are numbered in the U.S.”

Kear says in the last three years, 150 coal-fired plants have shut down in the U.S. But there will still be some demand to sustain coal for a while. He says China will likely be a hungry customer as it continues its push for industrialization.

Meanwhile, Consol’s latest report says it’s drilled 15 horizontal shale wells in the Utica and Marcellus Shale plays in the third quarter.

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