Hawaii Says No Coal Allowed; Receives Final Shipment Of Coal Last Week

The governor of Hawaii announced the state received its last shipment of coal last week as they transition to so-called clean energy. "Good luck to them," said the head of the Wyoming Mining Association.

Clair McFarland

August 03, 20224 min read

Hawaii coal 8 3 22 scaled
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Hawaii received its last shipment of coal last week, but Wyoming’s coal industry isn’t affected, according to an industry expert.    

“Good luck to them,” said Travis Deti, executive director of Wyoming Mining Association.   

Hawaii hasn’t been a big player in Wyoming’s coal industry, said Deti. They’re also not the first to make the shift. However, the move is troubling as an indicator of the longterm trend of utilities and lawmakers shunning coal, he added.  

Two decades ago coal provided roughly 50% of the nation’s energy and now supplies less than half as much, he noted.  

“We used to ship coal to roughly 37 or 36 states. We’re down to about 27 states right now,” Deti said.     

‘For Our Planet’   

“This week Hawaii is receiving its final shipment of coal,” wrote Hawaii Gov. David Ige on his official Twitter page July 28. “This is a huge step forward in Hawaii’s transition to clean energy.”   

Ige thanked the workers who ran the state’s last remaining coal plant, saying it was an important resource for Hawaii “in its time.”    

He said renewable energy projects are “coming online with more on the way” despite challenges during the transition.    

“It’s the right move for our communities and planet,” Ige wrote.   

There were multiple expressions of gratitude among commenters on Twitter, such as “Thank you!” and “well done.”   

Others were not impressed.    

“Get ready for high electricity bills. What are we replacing it with?” tweeted a user titled “Aloha State Freedom.”    

“Soon to be Australia Part II,” tweeted a user named “CaptainRiker.” The man attached a June 23 Bloomberg.com story reflecting on Australia’s power market shutdowns earlier in June following spiking global demands for natural gas and the country’s neglected coal infrastructure.    

Short-Term ‘Pretty Strong’   

The natural gas price hikes, the war in Ukraine, and an electric-vehicle push in America could help Wyoming and other coal producers in the short-term, said Deti.    

When utilities over the past 10 or 15 years have sworn off coal incrementally, they did so amid low natural gas prices – about $2 per Metric Million British thermal unit (MMBtu).   

Today, natural gas is $7.70 per MMBtu.    

“That’s a tremendous price hike,” said Deti, adding that higher natural gas prices could make coal more attractive to utility companies as an alternate power source. Wyoming coal is priced at about $13.50 per ton, which is a competitive price for the market, he said.  

Another factor favoring coal is the Russia-Ukraine war, Deti said. Some European countries reliant on Russian natural gas are facing threatened grid reliability as the war and its international tensions continue. Poland, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland all face natural gas shortages from Russia amid payment quarrels, and numerous European Union countries have had their Russian gas supply cut as well, Reuters reported in June. 

Then there’s President Joe Biden’s push to switch Americans from gas-fueled to electric cars.    

“As we make this dramatic transition – as the president calls it – to electric vehicles, something is going to have to provide that electricity. And wind and solar just can’t do it,” said Deti, theorizing that coal could answer the demand new electric vehicles would place on the power grid.   

“The short-term outlook for Wyoming coal is pretty strong,” he said.    

Dead Ports 

But producers in Wyoming don’t have good exportation prospects, Deti said.   

The producers ship out of a Vancouver port, which, Deti said, is too expensive to export large volumes often.Coastal ports in Oregon and Washington shut coal out in recent years, squashing Wyoming exports to areas like Asia where the demand remains high.    

Wyoming and Montana sued Washington over its denial of permitting for coal port projects, but the U.S. Supreme Court last June declined to hear the suit when the coal-project developer, Lighthouse Resources, went bankrupt.   

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter