SIC 5989

Establishments in this industry primarily sell coal, wood, and other fuels, not elsewhere classified.

NAICS Code(s)

454319 (Other Fuel Dealers)

The United States produced 1.1 billion tons of coal in 1998, with 940 million tons going for domestic use and the remainder being exported. Over 87 percent of U.S. coal was sold to utilities in 1998. Approximately 3 percent was sold to the industrial, residential, commercial, and transportation sectors. Americans were projected to consume 580 million cubic meters of wood and wood products by the turn of the century. Most U.S. fuel wood is sold to electric companies. But this could change if the U.S. becomes a leading exporter of fuel wood in the next millennium. In 1998 the U.S. imported $9.4 billion dollars more of forest products than it exported. U.S. wood exports have dropped 20 percent since 1994, while foreign wood imports have increased 33 percent. At the same time, developing countries burn nearly 2 million tons of wood fuel each day. Wood fuel supplies are up to 95 percent of domestic energy in these countries and also contributes to commercial and industrial needs.

Companies in this industry are affected mainly by production levels of the products they sell and by customers' use of competing fuel sources, such as petroleum and natural gas. Coal was the leading source of fuel used in America until the 1920s, when the growing popularity of automobiles and developments in the aviation industry introduced new fuels. Meanwhile, the coal industry over-expanded, which led to intense competition among coalmines and a decline in coal prices, both wholesale and retail. By the 1940s, the coal industry lost one of its largest markets after railroads converted to diesel-powered systems. Coal consumption rose again in the 1970s and 1980s due to the oil crisis, which prompted new coal-processing technologies. At the start of the 1990s coal production rose 4 percent annually with increasing demand from electrical utilities.

In 1997 Dun and Bradstreet listed 1,287 establishments doing business under this industrial classification. Leaders in the industry ranged from big companies with large payrolls to smaller companies that still generated significant revenue. Do-All Gas Company of Benson, North Carolina, reported $790,000 in miscellaneous fuel products sales during 1997, while employing less than 20 workers. Clonch Industries, Inc. of Belva, West Virginia generated $3.7 million in wood-related sales in 1997, while employing 50 workers. Southern Appalachian Coal Sales, Inc. of Knoxville, Tennessee, reported more than $23 million in revenue during 1997, and a staff of several thousand employees.

Further Reading

"U.S. Coal Production." Coal Week, 18 October 1999.

"The New York Times Almanac 2000: The Almanac of Record." New York: Penguin Reference Books 1999.

U.S. Bureau of the Census Web site. . December 1999.

U.S. Department of Commerce Web site. . December 1999.

U.S. Department of Labor Web site. . December 1999.

"Value of U.S. Wood Exports" The Journal of Commerce, 11 January 1999.

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