Buffett’s big coal bet

Reuters columnist John Kemp argues that Warren Buffett’s big bet on Burlington is a gamble on the future of coal – and, by definition, of carbon capture and storage. He writes:

Coal is the most important item moved on BNSF’s railroads. It accounted for almost half the tonnage moved by BNSF in the first nine months of the 2009 (214 billion revenue ton miles out of a total of 444 billion) and a quarter of the company’s revenues ($2.7 billion out of a total of $10.4 billion).

Coal might be dirty, but it’s also abundant and cheap in the US. The question is whether those emissions can be successfully tackled by carbon capture and storage.

BNSF’s network, Kemp writes, is “perfectly positioned” to benefit from a big expansion of coal-fired power in the US, by shifting coal from the major producing areas to consumption areas in the mid-West and southern California. He links to several maps, including those below showing coal-producing areas and BNSF’s network:

EIA

Source: EIA

BNSF

Source: BNSF

Related links:

Buffett bets $27bn on US (FT, 03/11/09)
Coal: The big challenge for US CO2 (FT Energy Source, 03/11/09)

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