Coal consumption on track for four-decade low

The United States is on track for the lowest yearly coal consumption in nearly four decades, the federal government said Tuesday.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA), the nonpartisan data arm of the Energy Department, said it is expecting coal use to fall 4 percent, to 691 million short tons, for 2018.

That would be the lowest level since 1979.

“The decline in coal consumption since 2007 is the result of both the retirements of coal-fired power plants and the decreases in the capacity factors, or utilization, of coal plants as increased competition from natural gas and renewable sources have reduced coal’s market share,” the EIA said in a Tuesday blog post.

The United States had 1,470 coal-fired power generating units in 2007, with 313 gigawatts of capacity, the EIA said.

But 529 of those units, with 55 gigawatts of capacity, had closed by 2017. And another 11 gigawatts of coal capacity retired through September of this year.

S&P Global Market Intelligence found last week that the rate of coal-plant closures doubled this year over last.

The coal decline comes despite President TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE’s outspoken promises to save the coal industry and end what he called former President Obama’s “war on coal.” Trump declared in August that “the coal industry is back.”

His administration has aggressively worked to roll back policies seen as hurtful to coal, including the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.