By Jessica Kennedy
Data released in early May show that coal’s current share of U.S. electricity generation is at an all-time low.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Short-Term Energy Outlook report, coal made up only 36 percent of the country’s electricity in the first quarter of 2012, a drop of more than eight percentage points from the previous all-time low of 44.6 percent in 2011.
The EIA expects electric power industry coal consumption to continue falling by an additional 14 percent in 2012, while natural gas is predicted to grow by over 20 percent. This switch is primarily driven by falling prices of natural gas, which dropped by 7.5 percent in 2011.
Coal production at mines is expected to fall by more than 10 percent this year, according to the EIA report. According to a February thinkprogress.org article, 106 coal plants have closed since 2010.
Data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration counters the coal industry’s claims that regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency has eliminated coal jobs; Since the EPA’s issuance of an interim guidance on Appalachian surface mine permitting in April 2010, the number of Appalachian miners has actually grown by 10 percent, despite a decline in demand for U.S. coal.