In March, President Donald Trump signed executive orders to rescind several regulations that were in place to limit pollution from mining and burning coal.1 The administration’s goal is to revive the coal mining industry, but the downside is coal emissions release more greenhouse gases than natural gas.2
These recent actions serve as a reminder that nearly every sector, no matter how reliable it has been in the past, goes through cycles of uncertainty. The utilities sector, for example, has long been recognized as a steady provider of dividend payments and thus is a popular instrument for retirement income.3
Like any industry, it has its ups and downs, which can affect an investor’s returns and income stream. That’s why we believe it’s generally a good idea to remain diversified, even within a historically reliable sector, to help mitigate risk. As financial professionals, we’re here to help you analyze your personal financial situation and create strategies utilizing a variety of investment and insurance products that can help you work toward your financial goals. Please remember that investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.
In 2016, natural gas (34 percent) surpassed coal (30 percent) as the country’s No. 1 source of energy for the first time in U.S. history. Nuclear power accounted for a 20 percent share of electricity generation. Renewable power sources, such as wind and solar power, are the fastest-growing power sources today, but they still represent only 8 percent.4
As for the future of coal, the CEO of the country’s third-largest coal mining company believes the industry will see most of its future gains not from policy changes, but from demand by China and South Korea. Last fall, these countries agreed to stop importing coal from North Korea, which was a boon for the U.S. industry.
The CEO for the U.S.’s largest public utility says his company closed many of its coal plants because it could produce energy at a lower cost with fewer facilities — not because of regulations. He also reiterated the company’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2020. Having been raised near coal plants in Philadelphia, with coal cinders floating frequently through the air, he said he appreciates the great strides that have been made in clean air.6
While clean energy sources have a way to go before they become the more affordable choice, many experts believe that eventually will happen. When it does, it’s unlikely consumers or corporations would choose a more expensive option to fuel their electricity.
1 CNBC. March 28, 2017. “Coal can be more profitable and efficient going forward, expert says.” http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/28/coal-can-be-more-profitable-and-efficient-going-forward-expert-says.html. Accessed April 25, 2017.
2 Ryan Handy. Houston Chronicle. Jan. 16, 2017. “Natural gas surpasses coal as fuel for power production.” http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/Natural-gas-surpasses-coal-as-fuel-for-power-10861176.php. Accessed April 25, 2017.
3 Kira Brecht. U.S. News & World Report. Feb. 5, 2016. “Generate Income and Play Defense With Utility Stocks.” http://money.usnews.com/investing/articles/2016-02-05/generate-income-and-play-defense-with-utility-stocks. Accessed April 25, 2017.
4 Ryan Handy. Houston Chronicle. Jan. 16, 2017. “Natural gas surpasses coal as fuel for power production.” http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/Natural-gas-surpasses-coal-as-fuel-for-power-10861176.php. Accessed April 25, 2017.
5 Michael Bastasch. Daily Caller. 2017. “Mining CEO Expects A Record Year For Coal Exports.” http://dailycaller.com/2017/04/14/mining-ceo-expects-a-record-year-for-coal-exports/. Accessed April 25, 2017.
6 Jonathan Matisse. Knoxville News Sentinel. April 19, 2017. “TVA CEO: Coal plants not reopening under Trump.” http://www.knoxnews.com/story/money/business/2017/04/19/tva-ceo-coal-plants-not-reopening-under-trump/100641238/. Accessed April 25, 2017.
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