The drought and heat causing financial hardship for farmers are a boon to the nation's coal industry, which expects the abnormal weather to help make 1988 a record year.
"It's unfortunate that something that can have such a severe impact on one part of the economy can help another, but that's what's happening here," said John Grasser of the National Coal Association."We're very sympathetic toward farmers," he said. "But with conditions being what they are, we happen to benefit."
The trade association's economic committee released a revised estimate Tuesday setting coal production at 926 million tons this year, 9 million tons more than a record set last year.
In its mid-year forecast, the committee also said domestic consumption of 932 million tons, including imported coal, would exceed last year's record by 15 million tons.
The association initially estimated sales and production at or below 1987 levels. However, committee member David MacKenzie, director of strategic planning for the Indianapolis-based AMAX Coal Co., said the mid-year revisions reflect unexpected demands caused by weather.
"With low-water conditions in the Pacific Northwest, particularly, utilities that normally use hydroelectric power have had to turn to coal-fired generators," he said. "There's also been increased use of air conditioning, and that pushes up the demand for coal."