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Rural Blog: Burning of coal to generate electricity down in all but two states

From 2007 to 2015 the amount of coal burned to make steam to generate electricity fell in every state except Alaska and Nebraska, after peaking about a decade ago, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a recent report, Benjamin Hulac and Elizabeth Harball report for ClimateWire.

“Combustion of steam coal reached its apex in 2007, but it has declined nationwide 29 percent since then, EIA said. The swoon was particularly sharp in the Midwest and the Southeast. Six states—Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in the Rust Belt and Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina in the South—accounted for nearly half of the national decline.” (EIA graphic)

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Ohio has seen a drop of 49 percent and Pennsylvania 44 percent, most likely because the proximity of the states to inexpensive natural gas, said Mike Ferguson, director of energy infrastructure ratings at S&P Global Ratings, Hulac and Harball write.

The amount of coal burned has also dropped by 53 percent in Georgia, 51 percent in North Carolina and 44 percent in Alabama. Two of the nation’s biggest coal-mining and -burning states, West Virginia and Kentucky, have seen the amount of coal burned drop by 26 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

Brian Park, an economist at EIA’s oil, gas and coal supplies office, said that in Northeastern states “falling gas prices most likely have played a bigger role in crimping coal demand than the regional carbon-trading market, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” Hulac and Harball write. “And pipelines in the Northeast and Southeast have already been erected, Park added.”

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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