Coal’s share of electricity generation market lowest since World War II
(The Associated Press; June 12) - Coal, which powered the U.S. from the industrial revolution into the iPhone era, is being pushed aside as utilities switch to cleaner and cheaper alternatives. The share of U.S. electricity that comes from coal is forecast to fall below 40 percent for the year, its lowest since World War II. Four years ago, it was 50 percent. By the end of this decade, it is likely to be near 30 percent. "The peak has passed," says Jone-Lin Wang, head of global power at energy research firm IHS CERA.
Utilities are aggressively ditching coal in favor of gas, which has become cheaper as supplies grow. Gas has other advantages over coal: It produces far fewer emissions of toxic chemicals and gases that contribute to climate change, key attributes as tougher environmental rules go into effect. Natural gas will be used to produce 30 percent of the country's electricity this year, up from 20 percent in 2008. "Even without the EPA rules, coal is not really competitive," Wang said.
EPA rules enacted over the past year tighten limits on power-plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, and place new limits on mercury, a poison found in coal. This will force between 32 and 68 of the dirtiest and oldest plants in the country to close by 2015, according to an AP survey of coal plant operators conducted late last year. Coal was hit with a potentially bigger blow in March when the EPA issued rules that could limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants as soon as 2013.