Winning the War on Coal in One Chart
Big coal isn’t looking so big anymore.
Production of coal from mountaintop removal—the most environmentally destructive type of mining—plunged 62 percent between 2008 and 2014, according to a report released Tuesday by the United States Energy Information Administration.
Surface mining fell 21 percent during that time, and total production declined 15 percent over six years.
“Lower demand for U.S. coal, primarily used to generate electric power, driven by competitive natural gas prices, increasing use of renewable generation, flat electricity demand, and environmental regulations, has contributed to lower U.S. coal production,” the report stated.
So, Why Should You Care? Burning coal is one of the dirtiest ways to generate electricity. Although coal-fired power plants produce just 39 percent of the nation’s power, they emit 77 percent of the electricity industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
And coal mining is environmentally harmful, particularly the practice of blowing off the tops of mountains to tap coal seams and then dumping the rubble in valleys and streams.
RELATED: Breaking Big Coal's Stranglehold
As the coal industry struggles, renewable energy investment continues to grow. Worldwide investment in carbon-free solar energy, meanwhile, is expected to soar to $3.7 trillion by 2040 as the cost of photovoltaic technology continues to fall, market research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported in a study released in June.