Trying to get a better handle on New Mexico’s energy resources, I recently spent a bunch of time learning about coal here. The results, a broad overview story in today’s Journal business section, are an attempt to answer the underlying question of what effect permanently higher energy prices might have on coal mining in a state with modest production and deep reserves. The short answer is “not much”. We’ve just opened our first new coal mine in more than a decade, but a number of factors suggest we won’t see a large increase in coal mining here over foreseeable time frames, for a couple of major reasons:
- Our coal is power plant coal, and we’re just not seeing more power plants being built right now. The exception here is Desert Rock, and the battle over Desert Rock’s carbon emissions and other environmental effects illustrates the problem with coal in both technical and political terms.
- Our infrastructure doesn’t support significant coal exports. The best, easiest-to-mine coal is in the Four Corners area, which does not have the rail connections to make large-scale shipping possible.