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Coal production and consumption continue to fall across the globe, with 2020 following the trend of growth in alternative and renewable energies. The reduction in coal consumption is clear in the U.S., with data showing how natural gas has quickly replaced coal in driving the country’s electricity output.
In data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2020 estimates for electricity output in the U.S. show how far natural gas has come in replacing coal as the top fuel for electricity. Estimates show that natural gas makes up roughly 39 percent of all electricity in the U.S. this year, while coal has fallen to just 19 percent of all electricity.
The coal industry has taken a steep decline over the last two decades. In 2000, coal made up over 50 percent of all electrical output in the country, while natural gas sat at just 15 percent of total output. The switch in fossil fuel reliance has directly coincided with the boom of the natural gas and shale gas industries in the U.S. over the last decade. Huge reserves of natural gas in Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and other key states have caused a massive shift in the country’s usage of coal, leading to a surge in natural gas jobs and contributing to a rapid decline for the coal industry.
The U.S. continues to find success in using natural gas to slowly wean off its dependence on foreign oil companies, with the Trump administration quickly increasing exports and scaling back regulations during his term. However, this work seemingly contradicts Trump’s pledge to bring back the coal industry during his 2016 campaign. The declining coal industry continues to deteriorate despite the rollback of coal regulations, and the proliferation of natural gas along with an increased focus on renewable energies in the U.S. will only serve to speed up the extinction of coal. Despite energy experts anticipating the continued downfall of the industry, little has been done in terms of compensation or support for thousands of coal workers across the country.
This chart shows the percentage of U.S. electricity made from natural gas and coal for each year.
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