Global demand for U.S. coal exports continues to sag, and domestic demand at power plants has been sliding as well.
According to a recent SNL Energy report, for the first time ever, natural gas has passed coal as the top fuel source for electric power generation in the U.S. with 31 percent of electric power generation coming from natural gas and 30 percent, down from 44 percent in 2010, coming from coal. The transition away from coal has been stunning.
Natural gas and renewables have been coming in cheaper than electricity from coal. That coupled with a growing list of federal regulations restricting the emission of greenhouse gasses and utilities have had plenty of motivation to abandon coal. In last 18 months, 17 gigawatt hours of coal-fired capacity has been retired completely.
Coal has been used for heating for thousands of years, as far back as the cave man. The burning of coal to generate electricity is a relative newcomer in the long history of this fossil fuel, It was in the 1880s when coal was first used to generate electricity for homes and factories, but it may finally be on its way out.