Everyone talks a good story against coal. The politicians propose "cap and trade", the euros sign the Kyoto accords, etc. Yet, when the sh?t hits the fan, economics always wins out. On a BTU basis coal is way cheaper then any other source out there (except maybe Nuclear, but that is a long way off).
At $13/mm BTU for NG, we are looking at the following costs:
Appalachian coal at 13,800 BTU/lb and $100/ton is 277,000 BTU/$
Power river basin coal at 8800 BTU/lb and $15/ton is 1,200,000 BTU/$
Natural gas $13 per MM scf is 77,000 BTU/$
Oil at $130/bbl is 44,000 BTU/$.
So, right now power river basic coal is about 1/30th the cost of oil on a BTU basis. See why coal to liquid makes so much sense (and why SSL has gone up so much the last year). I would think, if the US had any smarts, we would be building CTL plants in Wyoming right now.