Despite the oft-repeated campaign promise to the coal mining states to, “make coal king again”, the new President’s first two years has seen more megawatts of coal-fired power generation shuttered than in the first five years of the previous administration.
Since the peak of the nations total coal unit capacity in 2011 at just over 317,400 MW, there has been a steady decline in the number coal plants every year. The fall is expected to continue as consumers demand power from cleaner and less expensive sources of energy.
In 2017-2018 as the President tried to bolster the industry, rolling back rulings on climate change and the environment adopted by his predecessor ⎼ 23,400 MW were shut down as compared to 14,900 MW in 2009-2012.
2018 was the second highest year of shutdowns in the last 10 years, with the peak in 2015
Electric prices have been kept relatively low for years, for the most part, by cheap natural gas and more and more by the use of renewable power like solar and wind. Their use is making it very uneconomical for generators to keep investing in older coal and nuclear plants.
According to a study by Rhodium Group that does independent research, emissions in the U.S. of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, spiked in 2018 after falling for the previous three years as cold weather spurred gas demand for heating and the booming economy pushed planes and trucks to guzzle fuel.
Natural gas emits about half the carbon dioxide as coal. As to the rising use of gas to produce power as more coal plants shut, John Larsen, a director at Rhodium Group noted, “There will be a limit to what increasingly cheap renewable power and continuously cheap natural gas can deliver with respect to emissions reductions.”
When fighting the threats to climate change and the environment there is a lot more that needs to be done than simply shutting down coal plants.
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