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Coal Companies Can Save Themselves: Poll

(Coal story updated with pre-market stock price movements for First Solar, Peabody Energy, CONSOL Energy, Dominion Resources, Massey Energy and Alpha Natural Resources, and additional analysts of TheStreet poll.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Despite proposed clean-air legislation; burgeoning clean-energy alternatives like solar and wind power; and speculation as to the demise of coal as an electric-power source; coal companies and coal stocks will likely save themselves, according to a recent poll by TheStreet.

No fewer than 79.9% of voters in our weeklong poll, conducted during the week of March 15, say that coal stocks will embrace clean-coal technology to a degree sufficient to keep them viable for decades. The remaining 20.1% of respondents disagree, saying they still consider coal stocks to be a risky investment, given the prohibitively expensive cost of clean coal technology.

Or, then again, much of the recent investor interest in coal stocks might actually have less to do with optimism about clean-coal technology and more to do with pessimism about the pace of renewable energy sources.

Indeed, Bloomberg reports that the shift away from First Solar (FSLR - Get Report) towards Peabody Energy (BTU - Get Report) is taking place at its fastest pace in two years, even as veteran financiers like T. Boone Pickens and Warren Buffett pour cash into environmentally friendly technologies.

Firsthand Alternative Energy Fund's Kevin Landis tells Bloomberg that the trend reflects the conventional wisdom that government support for reducing greenhouse gases has been waning; the Stowe Global Coal index of 38 coal producers has increased 6.5% in 2010, while the Bloomberg Global Leaders Solar index of 38 solar module and component makers has plunged 17%, according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, companies like Consol Energy (CNX - Get Report), which on Mar. 15 announced its agreement to buy Dominion Resources' (D - Get Report) natural gas properties for $3.5 billion in cash, have proven that coal and natural gas businesses are note mutually exclusive. Another coal producer, Massey Energy (MEE) continues to seek potential natural gas deals, even as it carries on with expanding it coal reserves.

Also, in February, coal company Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) announced a joint venture with Rice Energy to begin developing that company's Marcellus shale gas resource in southwestern Pennsylvania.

First Solar has fallen 2.6% to $110.30 a share in pre-market trading, while Peabody Energy is down 2.1% at $46 a share. CONSOL Energy has fallen 1.5% to $44.90 and Dominion Resources is flat at $40.70.

Meanwhile, Massey Energy has fallen 2% to $48.90 and Alpha Natural Resources is down 1.2% at $46.90.

-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York


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