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Robert Trigaux

TECO Coal girds for Friday's mine 'disaster' contest even as its product loses favor in U.S.

The Blue Team of TECO Coal from one of the recent annual mine safety and rescue contests held in southwest Virginia. TECO Coal is owned by Tampa's TECO Energy. (Photo courtesy of

Wake up and good morning. As a source of fuel to fire up power plants to generate electricity, coal used to be the preferred source: domestic and cheap. But now it's increasingly on the outs -- too polluting to the air, too ruinous to the Appalachian terrain and too pricey lately ever since natural gas prices have dropped through the floor.

Nevertheless, companies like Tampa's TECO Energy still operate coal subsidiaries even as its Tampa Electric (once coal's biggest fan) continues to move away from coal as a source for its power plants. The coal industry continues to market itself as a key component of producing electricity in America and advertises that message heavily. But the reality is coal really is a big polluter and the extra costs required to try and control air pollution from burning coal makes the fuel less competitive, especially in today's rock-bottom prices for natural gas.

That doesn't mean U.S. coal does not have markets. There are still plenty of coal-powered plants, though they are slowly going away. The coal industry increasingly will be shipping its product overseas to countries happy to get a cheaper fuel to generate electricity, where air pollution concerns remain years if not decades behind the United States.

tecocoallogo.giftecocoal.jpegTECO Coal, based in Kentucky, also wants its coal mining operations to be as safe as possible. Teams from TECO Coal will compete Friday in Virginia's 27th annual Governor's Cup Mine Safety and Rescue Contest. They will face teams from other coal companies in timed and judged exercises involving mine "disaster" scenarios. Read more from the Kingsport Timesnews. Good luck, TECO.

Competitive pressures on coal are only growing. More than 100 of the 500 or so coal-burning power plants in this country are expected to be shut down in the next several years, says this May 29 New York Times business story.

And the odds of any new power plant being built in Florida that will be run on basic coal (without all sorts of fancy (ie, pricey) technology to cut pollution)? Zero.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times



[Last modified: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 8:16am]


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