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Energy costs aren't bad news for everyone

From contractors in Columbus to coal mining companies nationwide, plenty of firms are cashing in on the cost of energy, as individuals and businesses scramble for alternate fuels and more efficiency.

Oil companies aren't the only ones benefiting from high oil and natural gas prices.

From contractors in Columbus to coal mining companies nationwide, plenty of firms are cashing in on the cost of energy, as individuals and businesses scramble for alternate fuels and more efficiency.

"We're just swamped," Mike Rosati, president of Rosati Window Co. in Columbus, Ohio, told Columbus Business First. "I haven't seen anything like it in 27 years." In Columbus, Business First reports, homeowners are making last-minute improvements to stave off heating cost hikes. It's a natural reaction to government predictions of natural gas hikes in the 46 percent range and fuel oil increases of about 32 percent.

Rosati told the Business Times he'd hired nine extra workers to help keep up with demand, and expected to hire 10 more in the next few months. Steve Cikach of USA Insulation told Business First he's been planning for the increase since April -- tripling his advertising budget and hiring extra workers -- and expects business to triple this year.

"Without a doubt it's pandemonium," Rosati said. "We're not even in the same league as last year."

While old-fashioned solutions like better insulation and windows and turning down the thermostat are back in vogue, so are alternative energy companies, as individuals and companies look for new ways to fuel their lives.

"The high cost of natural gas and electricity is making our alternative energy option economically feasible," Dan Eastman, vice president for Microgen Cogeneration Systems, Inc., told the Business Journal serving Greater Milwaukee. Eastman's Golden, Colo., firm sells equipment to turn animal waste into energy. It's seeing more business from rural electric cooperatives and farms and working to strike additional deals around the country.

Meanwhile, companies that make solar panels, or photovoltaic systems, are also seeing big increases in business, thanks to higher prices for other energy sources. As prices for oil and natural gas climbed through the past year, so have installations of photovoltaic systems. "Business is going great and we've been growing right alongside demand," UniRac Inc. Vice President Hal Newman told the New Mexico Business Weekly. His firm recently announced plans to double its manufacturing space, with business growing at a 50 percent clip.

It's not just small businesses like those in Columbus or more cutting-edge energy technology companies experiencing a surge thanks to higher natural gas and oil prices.

Good old coal companies are burning hot.

The Baltimore Business Journal reports that the price of coal from the central and northern Appalachians has doubled in three years. The Baltimore Business Journal reports that Foundation Coal, the nation's fourth largest producer, has seen revenues jump 33 percent since 2004.

Arch Coal Inc.'s 3rd quarter profit was up 76 percent, the St. Louis Business Journal reported earlier this week. "We believe that the foundation is in place for an extended period of attractive coal market dynamics and strong pricing," president and CEO Steven Leer said, in a statement announcing earnings. His company expects coal consumption to grow for the third year in 2005, and to grow again in 2006.

Patrick Fearon, senior economist at St. Louis-based A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., told Columbus Business First businesses in the energy-saving and alternative energy businesses can expect good times in the immediate future, not just this year. "Over the next two to three years," he said, "we're all in for higher energy costs than we're used to."

That kind of sentiment has been reflected on Wall Street, which has rewarded Arch Coal, and Peabody Coal with generally strong stock gains in the past year, the St. Louis Business Journal reported.