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Coal Ditched for Natural Gas at US Power Plants

Apparently many modern electric power plants that are coal powered can also use natural gas. So, when the price of natural gas came down in the US, more power stations switched to the cheaper fuel.

The result has been a sharp drop in coal use. Unused coal is piling up at power plants. About 175 million tons of coal inventory is now backed up. Inventory is up 26% over last year.

This national backlog is now beginning to back up into coal fields too. Wyoming has a 6.5% drop in demand from utilities, especially in the Midwest. For the first time in 15 years, coal production has been slowed in Wyoming. And the future looks grim too.

A utility with power plants across six states; Rocky Mountain Power now plans to replace some coal power generating capacity with natural gas facilities on the assumption that carbon legislation in some form is looking increasingly likely.

Power plants still store the coal, just in case of a sudden rise in natural gas prices. Natural gas itself is difficult to store and there isn’t much storage available. Back when natural gas was more expensive, it was used more to cover peak demand because it can be brought online quicker.

But now, with the combination of its environmental advantage over other fossil fuels, and its recently discovered abundant supplies; natural gas is the preferred fuel.

Use of coal has gone down 14% in the last year. Seven states accounted for half the drop; Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Texas.

Turns out money talks. And pollution is becoming a consideration. Since natural gas has only about 40% of the carbon emissions of coal, this is very fortunate news.

Image: John Lillis

 
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writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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