Despite the persistence of climate change and a slew of reports this year about impending points of no return, there’s a little good news for the environment this month. According to a new report from the United States Department of Energy, nationwide coal production hit its lowest level in 35 years during the last quarter. Thanks to the steady rise of alternative energy sources, such as solar, and wind power, utilities across the country are slowly but surely putting fossil fuels in the dog house, and the declining demand has impacted the coal industry directly.
Not since a major coal workers’ strike in the early 1980s has coal production been so low. The U.S. Energy Information Administration published the new report last week, which illustrates coal production measured in millions of tons. For Q1 2016, 173 tons of coal was produced – a figure that represents a steep decline over recent years. The majority of the decline was felt in the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming, where coal production has fallen significantly over previous quarters.
Coal production in the U.S. has been on the decline since its peak in 2007, but levels have been decreasing at a more rapid pace over the last several years for a variety of reasons. Americans did use less energy last year as a whole, but that’s not why coal production is down. The uptick in renewable energy industries is a primary factor, translating into coal companies filing for bankruptcy in record numbers. “Coal production has declined because of increasingly challenging market conditions for coal producers,” the report said. “In addition to complying with environmental regulations and adapting to slower growth in electricity demand, coal-fired generators also are competing with renewables and with natural gas-fired electricity generation during a time of historically low natural gas prices.”
Via New York Times