Despite President Donald Trump’s campaign assurances that he would put West Virginia coal miners “back to work”, the president of the United Mine Workers of America recently rather bluntly that “Coal’s not back. Nobody saved the coal industry.” He said despite promises from both sides of the political spectrum, coal fired plants are closing all over the country, calling it a “harsh reality”. Only one, relatively small, new coal-fired generator with a capacity of 17 megawatts is expected to come online by the end of the year and overall coal consumption is expected to decline a further 8% from last year’s levels even while the US economy continues to expand. The main reason? A period of sustained, low natural gas prices and lots of supply (mostly due to fracking) has kept the cost of generating electricity with natural gas competitive with generation from coal. In addition, increased competition from renewable energy sources have also contributed to the decline. This chart, from theatlas.com, shows the steep downward slope.
Total consumption of coal in the U.S.
| November 18, 2019