US coal prices surged past $200 for the first time as a global energy crunch drives up demand for the dirtiest fossil fuel. Spot prices for coal from Central Appalachia rose to $204.95 a ton for the week ending Sept. 30, the highest in records dating to 2005, according to data released Monday by the US Energy Information Administration. Coal remains a leading fuel in US power plants, and the soaring prices will ratchet up pressure on US homes already struggling with record-high electricity bills. About 20 million household across the country — or about one in six — have fallen behind on their utility bills, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association. The share prices of big US coal companies responded favorably. Peabody Energy Corp. shares rose as much as 6.5% to $26.42 and traded at $26.21 at 12:41 p.m. in New York. Arch […]