America is ditching coal


I stated early this year that 2016 would be a bad year for fossil fuels. It seems I was quite right as bad news keep on piling for coal in the United States. 

The first evidence was the announcement that Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, filed for bankruptcy earlier this month. Climate Progress reported that :

The company attributed its financial woes to “a dramatic drop in the price of metallurgical coal, weakness in the Chinese economy, overproduction of domestic shale gas and ongoing regulatory challenges.”

The value of the company’s shares had already lost 99 percent of their value since 2008. This gives quite an example of a reason to divest from fossil fuels…

 

But things are not going to get any better for Peabody’s activities in America as coal consumption in the United States have dropped by a staggering 29 percent between 2007 and 2015. That is a 3.6 percent annual reduction…

Reasons for this phenomenon are well known : a glut of natural gas from fracking, an increase in energy efficiency and conservation, and of course, the booming wind and solar sectors. The latter is only beginning as grid parity is a reality or about to be one in many US States. As GTM Research reports :

20 U.S. states are currently at grid parity, and 42 states are expected to reach that milestone by 2020 under business-as-usual conditions.

 

So, no, don’t expect coal to do a comeback in these conditions. Especially if overall energy consumption is decreasing. Treehugger ran an article from official figures stating that, in 2015 :

Compared to 2014, Americans used 0.8 quadrillion BTU (quads) less energy in 2015. A BTU or British Thermal Unit, is a unit of measurement for energy and 3,600 BTU is equivalent to about 1 kilowatt-hour.

the energy wasted was down by one percent. Every year, more energy is generated than is actually used, but improvements in the efficiency of electricity generation and transmission are helping to bring that number down, if even just a little.

The positive things to get from this report are that renewable energy continues to grow and if efficiency gains in both electricity generation and consumption can keep increasing, a downward shift in fossil fuel consumption will be a permanent trend.

 

An old study I blogged about in 2010 believed that the United States could be coal-free by 2030. Reading all these news I am now certain that this can be done, perhaps even in advance if things continue like this for solar, wind and efficiency.

Now, pondering about all this, if you are thinking that coal being done for you just need to transition to oil, just be aware that even Saudi Arabia is transitioning to an oil free economy. This puts things in perspective.

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