Crude oil pricesOn December 15, 2017, the price of WTI (West Texas Intermediate) crude oil was $57.30 per barrel. This reading was marginally 0.1% below the price of $57.36 per barrel when the market closed on December 8. On December 15, 2017, the Brent crude oil prices were marginally down 0.3% to $63.23 per barrel from $63.40 per barrel on December 1, 2017. Crude oil’s price volatility could influence oil producers such as Contango Oil & Gas (MCF) and Marathon Oil (MRO). Prices have fallen for the third straight week. Prices dropped primarily due to boost in US crude oil production and gasoline inventories.In its Short-Term Energy Outlook (or STEO) report published on December 12, 2017, the EIA project Brent and WTI crude oil spot prices to average $57.00 per barrel and $53.0 per barrel in 2018. Is crude oil price a potent driver for coal miners?Coal-mining (KOL) companies such as Cloud Peak Energy (CLD), Alliance Resource Partners (ARLP) and Westmoreland Coal (WLB) are impacted in many ways by crude oil prices’ volatility.Yet, coal and crude oil aren’t directly linked to each other.Earlier in this series, we witnessed that natural gas inventory and price are vital drivers of coal price fluctuations. Because crude oil is a crucial agent in the natural gas production process, the commodity’s price acts as an indirect driver for the coal industry.Crude oil producers adjust the amount of production depending on prices. If prices are weak, they decrease the production volume, which frees up rail cars for coal transportation. Coal producers use these rail cars to ship coal, thereby helping them to minimize their working costs. So we can say crude oil is an indispensable agent in the coal mining process.Despite playing an essential part in the natural gas production and coal mining process, crude oil isn’t engaged in the energy generation processes employed in the US. Hence, the effect of crude oil price variations on utilities is insignificant.In the next part, we’ll explore levels of coal inventory for the week ending December 9.