Can Coal Make a Comeback?

Can Coal Make a Comeback?

By Trevor Houser, Jason Bordoff and Peter Marsters

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT

煤炭能否卷土重来?-  文章概述

Trevor Houser, Jason Bordoff and Peter Marsters offer an empirical diagnosis of the causes of the U.S. coal industry collapse over the last six years, which has been characterized by bankruptcy filings from three of the four largest U.S. miners and plummeting employment in the sector. The authors assess the global coal market outlook and examine the prospects for a recovery in coal production by modeling the impact of President Trump’s executive order to review or rescind Obama-era environment regulations. The paper concludes with recommendations for steps that the federal government can take to safeguard the pension and health security of current and retired miners and dependents and support economic diversification. 

Key findings from the report include:

- U.S. electricity demand contracted in the wake of the Great Recession, and has yet to recover due to energy efficiency improvements in buildings, lighting and appliances. A surge in U.S. natural gas production due to the shale revolution has driven down prices and made coal increasingly uncompetitive in U.S. electricity markets. Coal has also faced growing competition from renewable energy, with solar costs falling 85 percent between 2008 and 2016 and wind costs falling 36 percent.

- Increased competition from cheap natural gas is responsible for 49 percent of the decline in domestic U.S. coal consumption. Lower-than-expected demand is responsible for 26 percent, and the growth in renewable energy is responsible for 18 percent. Environmental regulations have played a role in the switch from coal to natural gas and renewables in U.S. electricity supply by accelerating coal plant retirements, but were a significantly smaller factor than recent natural gas and renewable energy cost reductions.

- Changes in the global coal market have played a far greater role in the collapse of the U.S. coal industry than is generally understood. A slow-down in Chinese coal demand, especially for metallurgical coal, depressed coal prices around the world and reduced the market for U.S. exports. More than half of the decline in U.S. coal company revenue between 2011 and 2015 was due to international factors.

- Implementing all the actions in President Trump’s executive order to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations could stem the recent decline in U.S. coal consumption, but only if natural gas prices increase going forward. If natural gas prices remain at or near current levels or renewable costs fall more quickly than expected, U.S. coal consumption will continue its decline despite Trump’s aggressive rollback of Obama-era regulations.

- While global coal markets have recovered slightly over the past few months due to supply restrictions in China and flooding in Australia, we expect this rally to be short-lived. Slower economic growth and structural adjustment in China will continue to put downward pressure on global coal prices and limit the market opportunities for U.S. exports. Indian coal demand will likely grow in the years ahead, but not enough to make up for the slow-down in China. The same is true for other emerging economies, many of whom are negatively impacted by decelerating Chinese commodities demand themselves.

- Under the best-case scenario for U.S. coal producers, our modeling projects a modest recovery to 2013 levels of just under 1 billion tons a year. Under the worst-case scenario, output falls to 600 million tons a year. A plausible range of U.S. coal mining employment in these scenarios ranges from 70,000 to 90,000 in 2020, and 64,000 to 94,000 in 2025 and 2030 -- lower than anything the U.S. experienced before 2015.

##

文章概述

6年前,随着经济衰退结束后需求回升,美国煤炭行业蓬勃发展。全球煤炭价格和美国煤炭公司股价皆创历史新高。 然而到2015年底,这个行业已然崩塌,美国四大煤矿公司中的三家以及其他许多小型公司纷纷申请了破产。 尽管近几十年来煤矿业就业人数持续下降——从20世纪20年代鼎盛期的80万下降到2011年的13万,但过去6年的失业加速尤为显著。唐纳德·特朗普总统曾在竞选造势中承诺结束前任总统所谓的“煤炭战争”。在2017年3月特朗普总统签署了一项行政命令,要求政府机构审查或废除一系列奥巴马时代的环境法规,告诉煤矿工人他们将“ 重返职场”。

本文对煤炭业崩盘提供了经验性的诊断,通过模拟特朗普总统执行命令的影响,评估全球煤炭市场发展趋势,研究了美国煤炭业生产就业复苏的前景。 本文的主要发现和结论如下:

  • 随着建筑物,照明和电器方面能源效率的改善,因经济衰退而大幅缩减的美国电力需求并没有全然恢复。由于页岩气革命,美国天然气产量激增,价格大幅下滑,使得煤炭电源在美国电力市场逐渐失去竞争力。同时,煤炭也面临来自可再生能源的激烈竞争,2008年至2016年间太阳能发电成本下降了85%,风电成本下降了36%。
  • 美国国内煤炭消费量衰退中的49%是由廉价天然气带来的竞争加剧导致的,26%归结于低于预期的市场需求,18%则是由于可再生能源的增长。环境法规在美国电力供应从煤炭转向天然气和可再生能源这一方面发挥了重要作用,加速了煤电厂的淘汰,但这个因素相较最近天然气和可再生能源成本降低的影响则要小得多。
  • 全球煤炭市场变化在美国煤炭业崩盘中发挥了作用远远超过预期。中国煤炭需求放缓,特别是冶金煤需求放缓,造成全球煤炭价格低迷,并导致美国煤炭出口市场下滑。 2011年至2015年期间,美国煤炭公司一半以上的收入下降是由国际因素造成。
  • 如果特朗普总统行政命令中的所有决定都能最终付诸实施,以削减奥巴马时期制定的环境法规,这似乎可以阻止近期美国煤炭消费量的下降,但这一结果的假设前提是天然气价格继续上涨。如果天然气价格基本维持目前水平,或可再生能源的成本比预期下降得更快,那么尽管特朗普强势削减奥巴马时期的环境法规,美国的煤炭消费依旧会继续下降。
  • 尽管由于中国的煤炭供给限制和澳大利亚的洪水灾害的发生,全球煤炭市场在过去几个月中略有复苏,但我们认为这种趋势只是短暂性的。中国经济增速放缓和结构调整将继续为全球煤炭价格带来下行压力,并减少美国出口产品的市场机遇。未来几年,印度的煤炭需求可能会增长,但并不足以弥补中国的增速放缓带来的需求下行的影响。其他新兴经济体也是如此,很多新兴经济体本身正在遭受因中国商品需求增速放缓而产生的消极影响。
  • 根据我们的模型预测,在最好的情景下,美国煤炭生产商未来的年产量将仅不足10亿吨,这只比2013年的情况好一点。在最坏的情景下,煤炭的年产量则会降到6亿吨。按照这些估计,美国煤矿行业的就业人数在2020年将在7万到9万之间,在2025和2030年间将维持在6.4万到9.4万之间,低于2015年前的任何历史时期。

这些发现表明,通过削减环境法规,特朗普总统并不会在实质上改善美国煤炭行业的经济状况。因此,文章建议美国联邦政府采取措施为在职或已退休的矿工及其家属提供养老和健康保障,并支持经济的多样化发展。不过,增加新的经济动能和创造就业岗位,都不能一蹴而就。即使在最成功的情况下,也不会使煤炭消费国重返几十年前的巅峰时期。负责任的政策制定者不应该欺骗人们相信煤炭行业还会重回过去的辉煌,而应该实事求是,让人们知道美国的煤炭行业目前的真实状况,包括煤炭消费量下降的真实原因,以及这种情况是不可逆的在未来也并不会有所改观。政策制定者们还应该为煤炭行业的从业者提供支持,促使他们努力创造新的经济前景。