Front Porch Blog

Coal Use Declines in First Quarter


By Jessica Kennedy
Editorial assistant, Summer 2012


Just because it’s listed in the “Facts” section of FacesOfCoal.org doesn’t mean it’s true.

Coal industry front group FACES of Coal reports that coal supplies half the electricity consumed by Americans. But data released May 8 show that coal didn’t even come close to providing half of the country’s electricity in this year’s first quarter.

According to the Short-Term Energy Outlook report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal made up only 36 percent of the country’s electricity in the first quarter of 2012. This is a nearly 20 percent drop from 44.6 percent in the first quarter of 2011.

The EIA expects electric power sector coal consumption to continue falling by an additional 14 percent in 2012, while natural gas in the electric power sector is predicted to grow by over 20 percent in the same year. This switch is primarily driven by falling prices of natural gas, which dropped by 7.5 percent in 2011.

Coal production at mines is also expected to fall by more than 10 percent this year, according to the EIA report. Although the decline in coal use is largely due to the affordability of natural gas, the coal industry is facing an uphill battle. According to a thinkprogress.org article, 106 coal plants have closed since 2010.

Despite the coal industry’s claims that regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency have killed jobs, data released in 2011 by the Mine Safety and Health Administration paint a different picture. After the EPA issued an interim guidance on Appalachian surface mine permitting in April 2010, the number of Appalachian miners grew by 10 percent. The data showed the number of jobs at Appalachian coal mines at its peak since 1997 in the first three quarters of 2011.

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