Photograph: Donald J Trump at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa, last month. Credit Dominick Reuter/Agence France-Presse------Getty images.
In 2016, annual U.S. electricity generation from natural gas surpassed generation from coal-fired power plants, the first time this has happened based on data going back to 1949. Natural gas supplied an estimated 34% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2016 compared with 30% for coal. The increase in the share of generation fueled by natural gas last year was driven by sustained low prices for natural gas. The U.S. average price for natural gas delivered to electric generators was $2.88/million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2016.
Natural gas prices have risen since last year, with the delivered price to electric generators averaging $3.58/MMBtu during the first half of 2017. EIA estimates that the share of total U.S. generation fueled by natural gas during the first half of this year averaged 29%, down from nearly 34% during the same period last year. In contrast, coal’s share of generation rose from 28% in the first half of 2016 to 30% in first half of 2017. Another reason for the decline in natural gas generation so far this year is the strong increase in conventional hydroelectric generation, particularly in the western states. The share of total generation in the West census division supplied from hydropower averaged an estimated 32% in the first half of 2017, compared with 27% during the first half of last year.
EIA expects a less pronounced change in generation shares during the second half of 2017. Natural gas is expected fuel 33% of total U.S. generation in the second half of 2017, compared with 34% during the second half of 2016. The delivered natural gas price to electric generators is expected to average $3.60/MMBtu between July and December 2017, up 46 cents from the same period in 2016. Coal’s share of generation in the second half of 2017 is relatively unchanged from the second half last year at 32%.
Natural gas and coal are expected to fuel about the same amount of generation in 2018, with each providing slightly more than 31% of total U.S. generation. Renewable energy sources other than hydropower are forecast to supply nearly 10% of U.S. generation in 2018, up from slightly more than 8% in 2016.
According to the EIA’s July report, “EIA estimates that the share of total U.S. generation fueled by natural gas during the first half of this year averaged 29%… In contrast, coal’s share of generation rose from 28% in the first half of 2016 to 30% in first half of 2017.” For the full year 2017, EIA estimates that coal will generate 3.453 million kilowatts per day, while natural gas, because of a rise in its retail price this year, will generate a hair less, or 3.432 million kilowatts. Wind and solar remain niche sources of energy providing about one-seventh as much power as coal and gas.
That’s not all. On July 21, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that “mining increased 21.6 percent.… The first quarter growth primarily reflected increases in oil and gas extraction, as well as support activities for mining. This was the largest increase since the fourth quarter of 2014.” No other major American industry had such gains and across all industries output was up less than 2%.
As for the drilling and mining industries, they have gained more than 50,000 jobs since Trump’s election with 8,000 added in June alone. Many of these were in the oil and gas industry, but some were in coal, whose output has increased 12% this year. Stephen Moore American Spectator