King Coal is ready for a comeback

Coal, once derided as an 'environmental nightmare', now looks like it could be the key clean energy source of the future. And with Chinese demand continuing to climb, the future looks bright for the black stuff.

"Coal is back, and back in a big way," says Edmund Conway in The Daily Telegraph. The black stuff, which has long been derided as an "environmental nightmare", is now being touted as a key part of Britain's energy future, and its clean energy future at that.

There are now a host of new technologies out there that make it an environmentally friendly energy source that is "clean enough for Kyoto". And this week, says Terry Macalister in The Guardian, the Government gave its "clearest signal yet that King Coal is ready for a comeback".

Alan Johnson, the trade and industry secretary, said that clean coal "could have an important role to play in making sure we have diverse generation in the future".

All this, along with rising gas and oil prices, has been excellent news for the coal price. It has doubled since 2003 and is now at levels that actually make it viable to open new pits in the UK one entrepreneur has even announced plans to reopen Hatfield Colliery in Doncaster.

However, as with all commodities these days, the real story isn't in the UK, but in China, where two-thirds of electricity is generated by coal, and which has just signed a clean coal agreement with the European Union indicating a long-term commitment to coal.

With Chinese demand huge and many other countries turning back to coal in the face of other fuels becoming more expensive, "coal's price and its popularity are likely to continue to rise" over the long term, says UK-based coal analyst Tony Lodge.

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