Gas Pains? Take A Lump of Coal For It

The AP is reporting that the latest Energy Department data shows that natural gas has overtaken coal as the leading fuel source for electricity generation in the U.S.:

Natural gas overtook coal as the top source of U.S. electric power generation for the first time ever earlier this spring, a milestone that has been in the making for years as the price of gas slides and new regulations make coal more risky for power generators.

About 31 percent of electric power generation in April came from natural gas, and 30 percent from coal, according to a recently released report from the research company SNL Energy, which used data from the U.S. Energy Department. Nuclear power came in third at 20 percent.

Partly this is the result of much cheaper natural gas that has come from the fracking boom that no one in Washington saw coming—and which environmentalists naturally now wish to stop—and the punitive EPA regulations intended to strangle coal-fired electricity.

Around the globe, however, coal continues to be the main source of new electric power generation, which even the very politically correct people at can’t disguise:

If you only focused on the United States, you might think coal’s days were numbered. . .

But that’s nottrue globally. Far from it. According to data from BP’s Statistical Review of Energy, coal consumption has actually been accelerating worldwide since the end of the 1990s. . .

According to an important study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we’re in the midst of a global “renaissance of coal” that’s not confined to just a few countries like China or India. Rather, coal is becoming the energy source of choice for a vast array of poorer and fast-growing countries around the world, particularly in Southeast Asia. “This renaissance of coal,” the authors write, “has even accelerated in the last decade.”

Why is coal so widely popular? The authors of the PNAS study — Jan Christoph Steckel, Ottmar Edenhofer, and Michael Jakob — argue that coal is often the cheapest energy option in many parts of the world, relative to other sources like oil, gas, nuclear, or renewables.

I haven’t had a chance to get through the new BP Statistical Review of World Energy, but I will, as it is always a very useful data set that can be relied upon to burst lots of energy clichés.