In 2018, Americans consumed less coal than at any time since Jimmy Carter was president of the United States, according to a federal report published on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018.
Cheap natural gas and other rival sources of energy are frustrating Donald J. Trump and his administration as they have pledged to revive the coal industry in the U.S.
The report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that 2018 would be the lowest in coal consumption is 1979 and the second-greatest number on record of coal-fired power plants shutting down.
The nation’s electrical grid accounts for most of the coal consumption in the U.S. Demand for coal has been dropping since 2007 due to competition for increasingly abundant and affordable natural gas and renewable energy. Tougher pollution laws have also compelled some older, dirtier-burning coal plant to close.
President Trump has made it a priority to bring back the coal industry. He other Republicans attacked Barack Obama for waging the war on coal during his presidency through increased regulations that Republicans claimed killed jobs and harmed the industry.
His enthusiasm for the coal industry has make the Appalachian “coal country” one of Trump’s bases of support. He racked up big wins in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and other states.
At a Virginia rally last summer Trump declared that “the coal industry is back.”
However, the federal government has figures that continue to show otherwise as market forces reveal there is little demand for coal.
According to the Energy Information Administration says coal consumption will end 2018 down 4 percent and fall another 8 percent in 2019.
Coal continues to slump despite the policy efforts of Trump to prop up the industry. His policy efforts include scrapping Obama’s Clean Power Plan that would have encouraged electrical suppliers to turn away from coal-fired power plants in favor of cleaner forms of energy.
Trump “talks tough to the coal miner to get their support, but he doesn’t deliver for them, and I don’t think that he can, because the markets are bigger than him,” says Joe Pizarchik, who directed the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement during the Obama administration.
Pizarchik is now a consultant on the water quality and reforestation. He says that lower prices for natural gas and renewables will continue to drive down the demand for coal, despite any deregulation efforts from the Trump administration.
The new tax law approved by the Republican-controlled Congress encouraged closing coal plants, as utilities use a provision that allows them to accelerate depreciation costs for closing plants, according to Pizarchik.
Despite continued drops in coal use, 2018 has been a good year for the coal industry due to soaring exports, according to the Director of U.S. Coal Analysis for S&P Global Platts Joe Aldina.
The spokesman for the U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior did not comment Tuesday.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry appeared before the National Petroleum Council in Washington on Tuesday. He devoted the majority of his remarks to urging the development of natural gas and petrochemical industries in Appalachian coal country. Perry said, “This is economic opportunity for a region that needs it.”
Natural gas production on Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia jumped from 2 percent of the country’s total in 2008 to 27 percent in 2017, according to Perry.
By Jeanette Smith
Desert News: US coal consumption drops to lowest level since 1979
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