COAL HELPS WYO. MORE THAN COLO.
U. S. coal production rebounded from very low levels in the second half of 2016, as utilities burned more coal to replace costlier natural gas, according to a report Wednesday from the U. S. Energy Information Administration.
Much of the increased production came out of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, the source of the lowest- cost coal in the country.
“During the third quarter of 2016, warmer- than- normal temperatures led to increased electricity generation— the highest on record for those three months combined— which resulted in higher consumption of coal compared to the first half of 2016,” the EIA said in its report.
That rebound continued into the fourth quarter, even after colder temperatures reduced the use of air conditioners. About 90 percent of the coal produced in the U. S. goes into power generation, and in January of last year natural gas replaced coal as the dominant fuel source for electricity.
By December, after a 50 percent jump in natural gas prices, coal had regained the top spot. It didn’t do much for Colorado coal miners, who suffered a 40 percent drop in output last year versus 2015. Coal production in the state is down to 1970s levels.
President Donald Trump campaigned on restoring coal production and jobs and on Tuesday reversed several environmental initiatives he viewed as part of the “war on coal.” Market forces and warmer temperatures, however, were already at work to snap a two- year decline in coal production, according to the EIA.