U.S. coal trends

by Milan on January 4, 2019

in Economics, Power plants

The Economist reports:

[A]ccording to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in America dropped by 2.7% in his first year of office. This was the biggest reduction anywhere in the rich world.

Andrew Wheeler, the former coal lobbyist who now heads the EPA, has been quick to praise “President Trump’s regulatory reform agenda” for this. In fact, the decline has little to do with the president’s policies. America’s carbon dioxide emissions have been on a downward trajectory since 2007, mostly because power plants have been switching to cheaper, cleaner natural gas and away from Mr Trump’s beloved rock. According to the Energy Information Administration, a government agency, America guzzled nearly equal quantities of coal and natural gas in 2007. Today natural gas provides twice as much energy as coal. Energy from renewable sources, like wind and solar, now make up just over 10% of America’s energy consumption.

Since 2010 nearly 40% of the country’s coal-generating capacity has either been shut down or designated for closure. This is mostly because rival fuels were cheaper, rather than the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which was much derided but never actually went into effect. Even under Mr Trump, coal plants are expected to shut down 11.4gw of capacity this year, the most since 2015. No American utility plans to build a new coal-fired plant; most of the existing ones are at least 40 years old. The environmental regulations that the Trump administration is trying to undo will not restore the coal industry to its glory days, though they might slow its decline.

As always, the fight against climate change isn’t just about moving in the right direction, but moving fast enough to avoid disaster.

Still, every setback for coal is welcome for those hoping for a safe and prosperous future.

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