For a time there, a lot of people thought that the shale gas boom and the exponential production of natural gas meant the end for energy’s dirty little brother, coal. Well, because the insanely low gas prices that were destroying the coal industry were totally unsustainable, the Energy Information Administration reports that coal has been reclaiming some of its lost market share in 2013:
After an equal share of electric power was generated from coal and natural gas in April 2012, EIA’s most recent preliminary data through March 2013 show coal has generated 40% or more of the nation’s electricity each month since November 2012, with natural gas fueling about 25% of generation during the same period.
So what does this mean for the planet you might ask? Well, I hope you like some good old fashioned carbon-dioxide emissions:
The EIA report finds that CO2 emissions from all energy in general will rise 1.3 percent this year and roughly .4 percent in 2014.
But it’s not all rosy for the coal industry either. Natural gas isn’t going anywhere and despite the pricing drop off, it makes more long term economic sense to stop building coal facilities and to instead tap into shale reservoirs. Yes, that means fracking. Also, in 2016, the coal industry is going to be hit with Obama’s costly regulations and will have to install and implement expensive new emissions controls to comply with EPA standards for sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury. This recent study out of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment found that the regulations will render 65 percent of the coal industry uneconomical.