Quietly, and with little of the fanfare accompanying the relentless surge in gasoline costs, the price of coal has doubled in less than a year.
The reasons are varied. Worldwide demand for coal is growing sharply. Bad weather has hampered production in Australia and China. Shipping problems have slowed exports from Australia and South Africa.
Because coal-fired power plants produce half the electricity in the U.S., the spike in prices has increased utility bills in some states, just as consumers are already coping with rising food and gas prices.