Whatever Happened to Coal?

In the last several years the majority of attention regarding energy production in North Dakota focused on oil and gas. The increased contribution of energy (oil and gas in particular) to GDP growth was significant as I showed before. The other day I watched a train with at least fifty cars full of coal go by and I wondered what happened with coal production over the last few years.

Revised Estimates for Monthly ND Coal Production

Revised Estimates for Monthly ND Coal Production

Coal continues to do its own thing with a bit of a seasonal pattern to the production data. What is more important is the absence of any obvious trend, up or down, in the coal data. Why is that important? It would seem to indicate that the expansion in oil and gas extraction did not impact coal production, at least not in an obvious way. Less obvious concerns not addressed with this data would be difficulties with labor force, regulatory issues, or other factors.

The same story comes through in the GDP data from the BEA. ND GDP from the extraction of coal remains stable while the oil and gas extraction and support activities undergo rapid and persistent increases.

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