The housing business is percolating just fine, and lumber shipments keep increasing.
Only agriculture and coal are weak, and both might be hitting some sort of cyclical trough. It is true that plantings are not showing a robust ag year, and the downturn in ethanol is a headwind.
But coal inventories have been worked down big, and they are now in short supply. In fact, I think coal will turn up big if the weather gets warm and air conditioning starts running hard amid a bottom in natural gas. At these prices, those utilities that can shift are shifting. Don't forget that Union Pacific ships cleaner coal, the kind that newer coal plants can handle without running afoul of the Environmental Protection Agency.
All in all, if you sit down with Union Pacific, you get very encouraged that the U.S. is moving again. You know that things are on the right track, so to speak. You know that the energy boom is the single most important spur to growth this country has had in years and years, and that it remains an intense focus for growth.Just so we're clear, though, this is all private sector. Nothing is being helped by Washington. Yet there's no doubt that if the government had supported this industry the way it supported solar, millions of jobs could be created in a relatively short period of time, perhaps as few as five years. Doesn't matter. It's fossil fuel. Not going to happen.
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