It hasn’t been the best couple of years for investors in coal stocks.
Coal stocks have faced the dual threat of falling demand coupled with rising regulation. First, our abundance of natural gas — which has been great for the oil stocks — has pushed prices down for the fuel towards historic lows. That’s causing utilities to abandon coal in favor of cheap natural gas for electricity generation.
Exacerbating the plight of coal stocks is rising environmental legislation. New rules created by the EPA have pushed utilities towards natural gas. New plants are essentially being forced to run on the abundant and cleaner burning fuel. That’s prompted several coal stocks to close mines and others to like Patriot Coal (PCXCQ) to close up shop and file for bankruptcy protection.
However, all this hatred towards coal stocks could provide tantalizing values for investors who want bargains. Several of the largest and best-run coal stocks are currently trading for peanuts. Meanwhile, coal is still widely used worldwide in steel manufacturing and in many emerging markets to generate electricity.