Coal produces almost half of the U.S. electricity. It is also the largest domestically-produced source of energy. In the first week of this month, U.S. coal production was approximately 17.9 million short tons. Production this year is down almost 8 percent from 2011.
Coal powers plants under cost, environmental pressure tells that three turbines along the shore of Lake Superior produce enough electricity for Duluth and Superior, Wis. To keep operating under new EPA rules, lime is injected into the boilers to remove sulfur dioxide and another facility is required to remove mercury.
The Minnesota state government is urging Minnesota Power to abandon coal-fired generators and replace them with natural gas boilers. With the current prices and availability of natural gas and the cost of cleaning coal emissions, natural gas is a winner.
U.S. coal Producers May Have to Seek Markets Overseas adds the current economics of natural gas in the U.S., along with the proposed federal emissions standards may prevent future construction of coal-powered plants. Modern natural gas plants achieve the new standards without additional technology, whereas coal plants emit almost double the new limit. The report adds that as a consequence of reduced U.S. demand, coal exports have almost doubled to India and China in the last five years.
Mmm. Five years ago, and perhaps only three years ago, the smart money was on coal. (And maybe nuclear.) Today, natural gas is the winner in the U.S. market.