Front Porch Blog

The Declining Power of Coal

How much does a ton of coal weigh?

It sounds like a funny question, but – if you’re burning coal for energy – all tons are not created equal. The value of coal comes not from the raw tonnage, but from the heat content of that coal. The higher the heat content, the fewer tons you have to burn to get the same amount of energy.

Appalachia has been mined for coal for centuries, and everyday we are mining deeper, thinner seams of poorer quality coal. The declining heat content means we have to dig even more coal just to produce the same amount of energy we used to.

Heat content is measured in “British Thermal Units,” or “Btu”s for short. Using data from the Energy Information Administration (and some admittedly poor graph-making skills in Microsoft Word) we can see that the heat content (Btu/ton) of a ton of coal has been steadily in decline for the last several decades.





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