Utilities turn to coal as cold blast spikes natural gas prices

The drawn out arctic blast has the U.S. turning to coal.

As natural gas prices reach a four-year high due to the strain the cold has put on gas pipelines, utilities are shifting to coal to pump out 4.519 million megawatt-hours a day.

Coal's share of energy production in the U.S. might climb to 40.3 percent from 39 percent last year. And the U.S. is on track for its coldest winter in more than 30 years through January, giving rise to the less expensive energy source.

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That sets the country up to emit the most carbon dioxide in three years, which won't help President Obama's carbon emissions targets.

“The idea of coal disappearing is not an effective climate change policy,” said John Thompson, an analyst at the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force told Bloomberg News. “Coal use is growing.”

Thompson did support the administration's push to implement carbon capture technology rather than wipe out coal completely.

Obama made a similar statement during an interview with The New Yorker, saying "it's not feasible" to think nations like China would stop building coal power plants.

"And so, if we can figure out a carbon-capture mechanism that is sufficiently advanced and works, then we are helping ourselves, because the Chinese and the Indians are going to build some coal plants, and even if we don’t build another coal plant in this country, there are going to be a lot of coal plants around the world that are built," Obama said in the interview, released last month.