Global demand and renewed popularity for the low-cost fuel have combined to put a strain on Pennsylvania anthracite supplies with a rather surprising result. People in the coal region are having trouble finding fuel for their stoves and furnaces.
It also shows how coal, which over the past 60 years has faded from its position as a dominant home heating fuel to a small niche market, is making a comeback in the face of high oil costs. A ton of coal, which can cost about $180 in the coal region, provides the same amount of heat as 180 gallons of heating oil, which would cost $630.
That price difference has encouraged many Pennsylvanians to use coal for heat. About 1.4 percent of Pennsylvania households have coal as a primary heat source in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.