Saturday, April 08, 2017

Americans Used a Lot Less Coal in 2016; Here’s Why

A coal mine in West Virginia. (Credit: James Holloway/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Coal in the U.S. is like landline telephones and fax machines — it was everywhere decades ago, but tastes, technology and the market have moved on.  

So it was little surprise when the federal government reported this week that U.S. coal use fell 9 percent in 2016, even as Americans consumed more energy overall.  The U.S. used more natural gas and renewables last year than ever before, while oil use and even nuclear power were on the rise, too.

But coal?  Not so much.

Coal use fell last year for the third year in a row — after slight increases in 2012 and 2013 — and has been steadily declining in the U.S. since it peaked a decade ago, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

The ongoing decline is occurring even as the Trump administration promotes coal as a way to boost energy independence and bring back jobs, two goals that most experts say are fallacies.

Trump signed an executive order in March designed to remove “burdens” to coal and other fossil fuels development, taking steps to dismantle policies such as the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would cut climate pollution from fossil fuels.

Part of the problem for coal, however, is that Americans aren’t as hungry for electricity as they used to be, thanks in part to more energy efficient buildings and appliances.  And coal’s greatest threat has come from another fossil fuel Trump is feverishly promoting:  Natural gas.

Natural gas has been booming in the U.S. over the past decade because of fracking, which has flooded the country with cheap and abundant shale oil and gas.  That flood was one of the reasons global oil and gas prices crashed in 2014.

Read more at Americans Used a Lot Less Coal in 2016; Here’s Why

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