Cargo Shipments Up, But Coal Sees Downward Slide

Northeast Ohio coal-burning plant (top) and cargo ships at Port of Cleveland (pics: Brian Bull)
Northeast Ohio coal-burning plant (top) and cargo ships at Port of Cleveland (pics: Brian Bull)
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The American Great Lakes Ports Association says total cargo volume is up nearly 5 percent compared to this time last year.

Grain and steel make up the bulk of those shipments, while coal has seen a drop of 11 percent.

Mike Zimmer is a specialist on energy and economics at Ohio University. He says for more than a year, he’s seen coal consumption dip for several reasons.

“Declining use of coal in the United States for power generation. The requirements for increased regulation of coal emissions form the EPA, and then, thirdly a decline in global manufacturing and production in general.”

Add to that the fact that many energy producers are increasingly using natural gas over coal, and you’ve a conundrum for Ohio’s coal industry.

Or not.

“There’s gonna be a demand for coal over the next decade,” says Craig Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

He considers the drop in coal tonnage to be only cyclical, as energy initiatives overseas are helping pick up the slack.

“Germany, for example, has set itself a goal of going nuclear free by 2025. There’ll still be a demand there.”

And Ohio University’s Mike Zimmer adds that there could be development of coal-based polymers and resins that could fire up coal’s fortunes as well.

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