CNN

Coal Is Still King In 18 US States. But For How Long?

Sep 14, 2018, 11:35 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:01 pm
Coal has been knocked down. But it's not out by a long shot.

Full Credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg ...
Coal has been knocked down. But it's not out by a long shot. Full Credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(CNN Money) — Coal has been knocked down. But it’s not out by a long shot.

Even though coal has been in steep decline, it’s still the most-used electricity generation source in 18 US states, according to government statistics published this week.

Not even natural gas, a rapidly growing and cleaner burning fuel, leads in that many states. The numbers underscore how large pockets of America continue to rely heavily on coal for power and jobs.

“It’s hard to unseat a former champion. It doesn’t change overnight,” said Matt Hoza, manager of energy analysis at consulting firm BTU Analytics.

Coal is still the most prevalent fuel for electricity in parts of Appalachia, including Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. It’s also the leader in other major coal-producing states such as Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.

But coal’s role in the electric grid is shrinking because of the abundance of natural gas and the plunging prices of renewable energy. Utilities have pulled the plug on countless coal-fired power plants in response to environmental regulations and demands from customers for cleaner fuel.

‘Rapid shift’

A decade ago, before the shale gas boom really took hold, coal was the leading source of power in 28 states. Since then, former coal states such as Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia shifted to natural gas and nuclear power.

In 2016, natural gas overtook coal for the first time as the nation’s leading source of power generation. Coal’s market share tumbled to an all-time low of 30% last year, down from nearly 60% three decades ago, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

“We’ve seen a relatively rapid shift from coal to natural gas,” said Hoza.

Although coal continues to play a major role, it’s popular mostly in states like Utah that have smaller populations. Natural gas is the leading source of power in the nation’s four most populous states: California, Texas, Florida and New York. Pennsylvania, the No. 5 state by population has moved away from coal in favor of nuclear.

Wind on the rise

Coal also faces competition from renewable energy, where costs have plunged in recent years. Hydroelectricity is the most-used electricity generation source in six states, including Washington and Oregon.

Wind isn’t the top source of power in any US states — but the EIA said “that may soon change.” That’s because Kansas and Iowa — two coal states — have ramped up their use of wind turbines.

Analysts don’t expect that President Donald Trump’s moves to slash environmental regulations will meaningfully revive the coal industry.

“Coal will continue to retire — at different rates in different locations, based on the cost of supply,” said Hoza.

Fossil fuels to peak by 2027?

Coal has also come under pressure in some fast-growing emerging markets that are attempting to clean up pollution.

For instance, China has halted construction of 100 gigawatts of coal power over the past year, according to Carbon Tracker, a London-based think tank. In India, the cost of solar power has plunged below that of a new coal-fired power plant.

Renewables are poised to be cheaper than fossil fuels in every major region of the world by 2020, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Carbon Tracker predicted in a report released on Tuesday that global demand for fossil fuels will top out between 2020 and 2027.

“The 2020s will be the decade of fossil fuel demand peaks,” Kingsmill Bond, the author of the report wrote, “as one bastion after another is stormed and overwhelmed by the rising renewable tide.”

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

CNN

Los Angeles police are asking for the public's assistance in identifying a suspect who is seen on s...
Natasha Chen and Aya Elamroussi, CNN

Police arrest suspect in an unprovoked assault of an Asian man in Los Angeles

Los Angeles police have arrested a suspect in the assault of an Asian man last week, in an attack caught on surveillance video, police said.
20 hours ago
An image taken from a video posted by  Robert Nightingale, who was a passenger aboard the Amtrak tr...
Amy Simonson, Steve Almasy, David Williams and Pete Muntean, CNN

3 killed, at least 50 injured when Amtrak train derails in Missouri after hitting dump truck

Three people are dead and at least 50 injured after an Amtrak train derailed Monday in Missouri, authorities said Monday evening.
20 hours ago
FILE: The Instagram app logo is displayed on an iPhone on Aug. 3, 2016, in London, England.  (Photo...
Rachel Metz, CNN Business

Instagram is testing AI that verifies your age with a selfie scan. It’s not perfect

Instagram is testing new ways to verify its youngest users' ages, including by using artificial intelligence that analyzes a photo and estimates how old the user is.
20 hours ago
Azuradee France, mother of the child found in a freezer in the basement of her Detroit home. (Credi...
Benjamin Schiller and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN

Michigan mother charged with killing toddler son whose body was in freezer

A mother in Detroit has been charged with murder after the body of her 3-year-old son was found in a freezer Friday.
20 hours ago
NASA has carried out its first commercial spaceport launch outside the United States. (Equatorial L...
Kathleen Magramo, CNN

NASA launches first rocket from Australian space center

NASA has successfully launched a rocket from Australia's remote Northern Territory, making history as the agency's first commercial spaceport launch outside the United States.
20 hours ago
(FILES) This file aerial shot taken on September 15, 2010 shows the disputed islands known as Senka...
Junko Ogura and Simone McCarthy, CNN

Japan says Chinese coast guard ships in longest violation of its territorial waters in a decade

Two Chinese coast guard ships navigated Japan's territorial waters near a chain of disputed islands for more than 64 hours this week
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Coal Is Still King In 18 US States. But For How Long?