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Rural Blog: Natural gas apparently overtakes coal as main power source for electricity in the U.S.


Natural gas in 2015, for the first time, appears to have overtaken coal as the top power source for electricity in the U.S., Scott DiSavino reports for Reuters.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration through October 2015 shows that power plants used more gas than coal to produce electricity in five of the 10 months, including the last four—July, August, September and October—that data was available.

Analysts credit the change to the "cheapest gas prices in 16 years and a record number of coal-fired plants retired from service because of the high cost of meeting environmental regulations (Creative Commons Photo)

Analysts credit the change to the “cheapest gas prices in 16 years and a record number of coal-fired plants retired from service because of the high cost of meeting environmental regulations (Creative Commons Photo)

Analysts credit the change to the “cheapest gas prices in 16 years and a record number of coal-fired plants retired from service because of the high cost of meeting environmental regulations.”

“While EIA does not forecast that gas produced more electricity than coal in 2015, some analysts conclude it did because gas in November and December traded at the lowest levels for the entire year, prompting more substitution in what was already an unrivaled year for coal-to-gas switching,” DiSavino writes. “Coal has been the primary source of fuel for U.S. power plants for the last century, but its use has been declining since peaking in 2007, which is expected to continue as the federal government imposes rules to limit carbon emissions.”

“EIA said gas produced a record high 37 million megawatt hours per day of electricity on average during the first ten months of 2015,” DiSavino writes. “Coal, meanwhile, produced about 39 MWh per day. One megawatt is enough to power about 1,000 U.S. homes.”

Read more here.

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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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