Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Not Enough Rail To Get Coal To Market?

mdmhvonpa alerted me to an interesting situation: apparently there's a shortage of rail to get coal to market. This reminds me of a situation I discussed last December with a former Reynolds Aluminum engineer (that company long ago got absorbed into Alcoa, much to the dismay of the former). Once upon a time, they had envisioned using Wyoming coal to power a smelter in Arkansas, but the only problem was transport; the plant couldn't be made to operate profitably if the coal was carried by rail, but it could if the coal were powdered and shipped via pipeline. (Such a pipeline is already in use at SCE's Mojave Generating Station in Laughlin, NV.) However, all the rights-of-way needed for the pipeline coincided with existing railroad rights-of-way, and therefore the railroads would fight every step of the way. Therefore, the coal couldn't be delivered economically, and the plant was never built. (In the case of Edison's pipeline, the coal is shipped using water as a carrier; in the case of the proposed Reynolds operation, they had planned on using CO2 as a propellant.)

It's easy to be somewhat skeptical here, and justifiably so; this smells like the first round of railroads seeking even larger eminent domain grabs in the near future.

BTW: warning to Firefox users: mdmonvonpa's site above is running a ticker that seems to cause Firefox to hang after not very long. If you're running the Adblock extension, you might want to add cnsnews.com/ticker before linking over there.