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How much coal does the U.S. consume?

According to the EIA article U.S. coal consumption in 2018 expected to be the lowest in 39 years:

EIA expects total U.S. coal consumption in 2018 to fall to 691 million short tons (MMst), a 4% decline from 2017 and the lowest level since 1979. U.S. coal consumption has been falling since its peak in 2007, and EIA forecasts that 2018 coal consumption will be 437 MMst (44%) lower than 2007 levels, mainly driven by declines in coal use in the electric power sector.

Why the decline?

One of the main drivers of coal retirements is the price of coal relative to natural gas. Natural gas prices have stayed relatively low since domestic natural gas production began to grow in 2007. This period of sustained, low natural gas prices has kept the cost of generating electricity with natural gas competitive with generation from coal. Other factors such as the age of generators, changes in regional electricity demand, and increased competition from renewables have led to decreasing coal capacity.

EIA coal consumption data can be found on the Monthly Energy Review page and in our Calculus Projects page.  A recent Think Progress article,
More coal plants shut down in Trump’s first two years than in Obama’s entire first term – The administration’s own data reveal coal isn’t coming back by Joe Romm (1/3/19) reports on the decrease in coal consumption.

Fact Checking Coal Mining Jobs

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker article Pruitt’s claim that ‘almost 50,000 jobs’ have been gained in coal includes links to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for each of their three screen shots of spreadsheets that back up their statements. The article notes:

In the last four months of the Obama administration, September to January, there was a gain of 1,400 jobs. In the first four months of the Trump administration, there has been a gain of 1,000 jobs.

While not part of the article, the graph here from the BLS is seasonally adjusted coal mining jobs since 1985.  Interestingly there was a drastic decline in coal mining jobs from 1985 until about 2000.

EU Coal Use

According to Climate Policy Observer EU electricity companies to cut investment in coal plants after 2020. While this is good news there is still a long way to go.

However, coal remains an important energy source for many European member states. According to the most recent EURACOAL data analysis, in 2014 EU indigenous coal and lignite production exceeded indigenous natural gas production by 28 percent and indigenous oil production by 78 percent.

If all existing coal plants continue operating to the end of their full life span, Climate Analytics highlights, the EU will by far exceed the level of emissions from coal compatible with the Paris Agreement’s commitments. For the EU to remain within its carbon budget, 25 percent of currently operating coal-fired power units need to be shut down by 2020, rising to 72 percent by 2025, before a complete shutdown by 2030, the study finds.

U.S. coal use has been on the decline and you can find U.S. coal data in  Calculus Materials.