Thursday, December 10, 2015

Transition from Coal to Natural Gas as Top Electricity Generation Source in the U.S.

Written by: Joe Labs


Transition from Coal to Natural Gas as Top Electricity Generation Source in the U.S.

In the past coal has been a reliable source for energy consumption not only in the United States, but the world. Within in the past decade the need for coal as a source of electric power generation has been declining drastically around the world. As global demand for U.S. coal exports continues to drag, natural gas has trumped coal as the top source of electric power generation in the United States.


The graph above depicts the graphical models of electricity generation mix in the United States from years of 2007-2013. “There's been a change both from a regulatory and economic perspective in terms of the competitiveness of natural gas. The transition from coal [to natural gas] has been stunning” (Steve Piper) A combination of market and policy factors has contributed to a major shift in the U.S. electricity generation mix from 2007 through 2013. As coal generation has declined, it has been replaced by generation from a combination of cleaner power sources--led by natural gas. (“UCS”) In the year 2007 coal was highly dependant upon in the United States, with 48% of our electricity generation. In that same year natural gas was under a quarter of countries electricity generation at only 22%. With only a difference of six years the United States has increased its demand for natural gas, with decreasing its electricity generation for coal. In the year 2013 the demand for natural gas increased by 5%, and the percentage of coal generation had significantly dropped 9% from six years ago. The United States is beginning to become more dependant on natural gas as a form of electricity generation and not coal because of the cleaner power source natural gas presents than coal, for meeting electricity demands, and coal prices have increased and with natural gas prices decreasing.

The United States is gradually becoming less dependant on coal as a use of electricity generation as shown above. Coal is a dirty energy source. “One of the major concerns about the production of coal is the environmental risks it presents to our environment. The burning of coal creates pollution for our environment in the form of toxins, and it is accountable for a quarter of the United States global warming emissions and over 80% of all carbon emissions produced nationwide.” (“UCS”) Growing concern for our environment is also driving the change from coal to natural gas. There are currently over 600 coal plants in production within the U.S. today. Some of these plants have been inefficient and are ready to be shut down based on the cost it has and the cheaper, cleaner alternatives available. Since the resource of coal is drastically being decreased for producer consumption and the economy and environment are looking for healthy, sustainable changes for our electricity generation, natural gas has become a reliable solution to the problem. The graph depicted below shows on how coal is a major pollution factor in our environment, and how the transition from coal to natural gas will drastically decrease the amount of pollution that is created through our electricity generation.


Not only are there positive changes through the environmental aspects, but also through the recent cost changes in natural gas and coal. The cost of natural gas has drastically decreased in recent years, while the price of coal continues to increase. According to an manufacturing energy consumption survey, “Natural gas has been an important exception to the trend of rising prices for energy sources used by manufacturers. Production of natural gas in the United States increased rapidly beginning in 2007 as a result of resources found in shale formations. That increase in supply has in turn lowered the price of natural gas to manufacturers as well as other consumers. The 36% decrease in the average natural gas price paid by manufacturers between 2006 and 2010, from $7.59 to $4.83 per million Btu (British Thermal Unit). Since this survey has been conducted natural gas prices have fallen further.” (MECS) The graph below shows that the natural gas prices from 2006 to 2010 have dropped 36% compared to coal prices in which they increased by 21% from 2006 to 2010.

Today, natural gas prices continue to fall and coal prices continue to rise. The environmental struggles experiencing today will slowly beginning to diminish with the integration of more natural gas plants instead of coal plants. The costs of natural gas in steadily decreasing which is allowing for more money to be invested into natural gas. I believe in the future that the amount of coal production will begin to decrease based on increasing costs, environmental negative effects, and the amount of resources left with coal. On the contrary natural gas will continue to remain the United States number one source of electricity generation because of the low cost of production and a lesser amount emissions.




















Works Cited

Brennan, Morgan. "Natural Gas Overtakes Coal as Top U.S. Electricity Source." NBC News. NBC News, 2015. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
Piper, Steve.  "Clean Energy." Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), 2015. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
"Smart Energy Solutions: Decrease Coal Use." Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), 2015. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

"U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis." Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey (MECS). U.S. Energy Information Administration (U.S. EIA), 6 Sept. 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.

12 comments:

  1. Hey Joe, I liked the piece and thought it was informative. However I don't believe you used enough terms related to economics class and how that effects the economy. Other than that, I wish you would have talked more about how other countries in the world use coal vs natural gas. Apart from the small connection to economics I thought it was a great! -Tyler Hull 12/11/15

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  2. This is a very interesting topic, since the topic of conversation today seems to always be power and gas. With new power sources being formed such as nuclear energy, the demand for natural gases and coal goes down, which shows it as an elastic good. However, what will the powerhouse be when coal and natural gases are all burned up and gone? Even though the demand is low, if there is a shortage or scarcity in these products in the future, we would need to find a different source of energy.

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  3. Coal is indeed a high pollutant and though it powers many many homes in the world, it is killing environments across the globe. It is a very good thing that we are slowly transitioning to cleaner energy sources such as natural gas. It may not be the cleanest source of power, but when you see the drastic decrease in the amount of harmful toxins that natural gas creates like mercury or sulfur dioxide, anything would be better than coal. It is incredibly important that we move away from coal to lessen the blow on not just nature, but ourselves.

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  4. This brings up a major point with markets of all kinds. The public view as of late has begun to go more green than any other time. First it was hydro power, then solar power, and now it's gas powered. Of course natural gas power has been around since.... a very long time, only recent have we become less wasteful in our use of natural gas, this could be a factor to it's popularity, that and it's almost limitless.

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  5. Coal is a major pollutant and it's a huge power source in the world, it is hurting environments air supply. It's good that wer trying to get cleaner energy sources such as natural gas. It's not that much better than the coal- natural gas creates other harmful toxins, anything would be better than coal.

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  6. It is interesting how we have made the switch from coal to natural gas. It also gives people the chance to choose a little on which they prefer. It is also important that we were able to find a cheaper and safer alternative to coal by using natural gas. One thing you could add/ think about is how the demand effects the price.

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  7. As we start to rely more heavily on natural gas, it may not counteract the effects pollution has had on the environment but since it gives off less pollution we may start to see the amount of carbon emitted reduce. Perhaps people will find even cheaper, cleaner forms of energy in the future so we will see another shift like this one while also helping the environment.

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