Striking numbers indicate just how quick we're switching off coal

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Source:   —  April 19, 2016, at 10:39 PM

S. government issued striking figures showing how much coal production in the United States has declined in the space of just a few years. The U.

Striking numbers indicate just how quick we're switching off coal

Latest week, even as Peabody Energy, the world'south biggest coal company, declared bankruptcy, the U. S. government issued striking figures showing how much coal production in the United States has declined in the space of just a few years.

The U. S. Energy Information Administration, in its latest Short-Duration Energy Outlook, stated that the U. S. production of coal latest mo totaled fifty-two million brief tons -- which was a thirty-six % reduce from levels seen just one year earlier, in March of two thousand-fifteenth.

Looking at annual production numbers over the past few years, combined with EIA'south prediction for total production in two thousand-sixteenth, gives a similar message.

The United States produced 999.7 million brief tons of coal in two thousand-fourteenth, according to EIA, the large majority of which was consumed to generate electricity right here at home. However, in two thousand fifteen that dipped to 895.4 million brief tons, a drop of more than one hundred million tons in just one year. The drop, incidentally, was considerably more than EIA itself had forecast around this time a year ago, when the agency had expected a decline to nine hundred twenty-six million tons.

So there was a large decline in U. S. coal production when comparing two thousand fourteen with two thousand fifteen -- but looking at two thousand-sixteenth, the drop is expected to be even bigger.

"Forecast coal production is expected to reduce by one hundred forty-three [million brief tons] (sixteen percent) in two thousand-sixteenth, which would be the largest annual percentage decline since one thousand nine hundred fifty-eight," says EIA. Total production is forecast to just be 752.5 million brief tons, or an over two hundred million ton decline from the level just two years ago.

This, too, wasn't what EIA was expecting. It thought a year ago that coal production would be at nine hundred forty-first million tons this year, a no that looks love it'south presently set to be near to two hundred million tons off.

The gist? Coal production in the U. S. is falling, faster than expected and long before the U. S. Spotless Power Plan, which was stayed by the Supreme Court, has arrive into effect.

Asked about the reason for the considerably more negative coal forecast, Timothy Hess, an analyst with the EIA'south Brief Term Energy Outlook (STEO), responded by email:

"The major contributor of lower coal production in the most recent STEO compared with a year ago is the expand in natural gas used in the electric power sector, mainly because of lower natural gas prices. In the April 2015 STEO EIA forecast natural gas price at Henry Hub to average $3.45 / million British thermal units in two thousand-sixteenth. In the April two thousand sixteen STEO EIA forecast the natural gas price at Henry Hub to average $2.18 / million British thermal units in two thousand-sixteenth. This drop in forecast price makes it more economic to running gas-fired generating units and reduced generation at some coal-fired units. The reduction in coal used for electric generation contributes to lower coal production."

In March, in fact, natural gas prices were on average even lower than these numbers -- $ 1.73 per million Btu, or British thermal units. In contrast, the cost of coal per million Btu is expected to be $ 2.16 in two thousand-sixteenth in the electric power sector, as an average.

The decline of coal burning has contributed to a reduction of U. S. carbon dioxide emissions -- but there are arguments that the rise of gas has actually not been all to the good. Late Friday, the U. S. EPA greatly increased its estimates for how much methane has been leaking into the atmosphere from U. S. oil and gas operations, which have boomed lately thanks to technological innovations, including fracking.

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