News roundup: Gulf Coast embraces US coal shippers rejected by West … Solar and wind energy start to win on price vs. conventional fuels … Hagel reportedly resigning as defense secretary

The path of least resistance: While environmental opposition has stymied plans to build terminals in California and the Pacific Northwest for exporting coal, Bloomberg reports the Mississippi River town of Darrow, Louisiana, has a new $300 million export facility. It’s part of a regional expansion that will increase capacity by 66% to 119 million metric tons by 2017, or more than half the national total, according to New York-based Doyle Trading Consultants LLC. At least $898 million—or 64% of the total $1.4 billion companies such as Ambre Energy Ltd. were planning to invest on the West Coast—is being spent on terminals on the Gulf of Mexico. Read the full story.

A whole new energy: For the solar and wind industries in the United States, it has been a long-held dream: to produce energy at a cost equal to conventional sources like coal and natural gas. Now, The New York Times reports, that day appears to be dawning. The cost of providing electricity from wind and solar power plants has plummeted over the last five years, so much so that in some markets renewable generation is now cheaper than coal or natural gas. Utility executives say the trend has accelerated this year, with several companies signing contracts for solar or wind at prices below that of natural gas, especially in the Great Plains and Southwest, where wind and sunlight are abundant. Read the full story.

Outside looking in: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure from President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, senior administration officials tell The Associated Press, following a tenure in which he has struggled to break through the White House’s insular foreign policy team. A senior defense official says that Hagel submitted his resignation letter to Obama this morning and the president accepted it. Hagel, 68, agreed to remain in office until his successor is confirmed by the Senate, the official says. An official announcement is expected later today. Read the full story.

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