Coal use for electricity generation in the US fell by 29% in 2015, as compared to peak use in 2007, according to a new report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). To put that in different terms, 1,045 million short tons of coal were used to generate electricity in the US in 2007, and “just” 739 million short tons were used for that purpose in 2015.
The report noted that the factors that led to this drop appear to be: flat or near-flat electricity sales growth in the US, and the increasing economic attractiveness of alternatives to coal (natural gas, wind energy, solar energy, etc.).
Think Progress provides more:
This chart shows exactly how much steam coal each state consumed in 2007, and within each bar there is a smaller blue bar which shows its current usage. The only outliers are Nebraska and Alaska, which saw 18% and 134% increases in coal use compared to 2007. Alaska in particular uses so little coal compared to other states that any swing would make an impact in a comparison like this. California and many New England states have nearly zeroed out their coal use, and Vermont and Rhode Island aren’t even on the chart because they had no coal plants in 2007 and added none since then.
Other states dropped anywhere from 2% (Wyoming) to 96% (California). While that seems predictable, with Wyoming being a huge coal state and California being, well, California, the real action is apparent in states that have depended on coal for more of their energy needs. Ohio’s drop of 49% is hugely significant given how large an aggregate drop it actually represented. Texas’ 16% drop may be a smaller number, but as the largest coal consumer in the country, it represents a lot of coal not being burned into the atmosphere.
Of course, much of this decrease in coal consumption was accompanied by a substantial increase in natural gas consumption — which was accompanied by widespread use of hydraulic fracturing as a means of extraction, and, unavoidably, by methane leaks as well.