Business: Coal Mainly Stands and Waits

Troubles galore getting the rich energy source to market

At sunrise one morning two weeks ago, Captain Kenneth Redden and his nine-man crew maneuvered the tugboat Susan McBride and her 15 barges, heading north to take on coal, into a mooring along the Mississippi River near Alton, Ill. For the next three days, Redden and his men watched TV and played cards, while waiting to get the vessels through the antiquated locks that are known as the Turnstyle of the Upper Mississippi.

Redden's delay was typical of the problems of transporting the U.S.'s largest potential source of energy. While experts predict that America's...

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