US coal consumption to reach an all-time low in decades

"The trend lines showing the demise of coal shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, including those in the Trump administration and coal industry executives."


Coal consumption in the United States is predicted to be at its lowest level in almost 40 years. According to a new report from the Energy Information Agency, the use of coal will drop by 4 percent in 2018.

But the demise of coal was written in the trend lines, Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, said.

“The trend lines showing the demise of coal shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, including those in the Trump administration and coal industry executives,” Cook said. “There are times when the entire state of California, the fifth largest economy in the world, is powered entirely by renewable energy sources, and other states from across the country are actively pursuing clean energy policies.”

The Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) report confirmed that the drop in coal consumption since  its peak in 2007 was a direct result of “retirements of coal-fired power plants and the decreases in the capacity factors, or utilization, of coal plants as increased competition from natural gas and renewable sources have reduced coal’s market share.” The electric power sector is the country’s largest consumer of coal, which accounted for 93 percent of total coal consumption from 2007 to 2018, the EIA reported.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2018

The EIA projected that U.S. coal disposition, both as a domestic need and exported, will remain low through 2050 predicting that an average of 750 million short tons per year (MMst) will be used over the next three decades, which is down from its peak in 2008 at 1.2 billion tons.

According to EIA, coal is now second to natural gas in electricity generation surpassing coal as the leading source of U.S. electricity generation in 2016. The cost of natural gas has stayed low since its domestic production in 2007, which is a main driver of coal retirements. EIA also reported other factors including “the age of generators, changes in regional electricity demand, and increased competition from renewables” have caused a decline in coal consumption.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review October 2018 and Short-Term Energy Outlook November 2018

S&P Global Market Intelligence reported that the closure of coal plants have doubled in President Trump’s second year in office, even after he pledged to “end the war on coal.”

“No one should have been surprised that candidate Trump made empty promises to bring back coal, or that as president he has utterly failed to do so,” Cook said. “The surprise is that coal miners have consistently bought into his cynical pandering.”


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