According to the Energy Information Administration, the US is forecast to burn 22% more coal this year than last, marking the first annual increase in the use of the polluting fossil fuel since 2014. Yet, by 2030, President Joe Biden wants the economy’s greenhouse gas emissions to be 50–52 percent lower than in 2005. Although the announcement is a setback for such objectives, the Energy Information Administration expects that the increase in coal use would be temporary, with consumption falling by 5% by 2022 compared to this year.
These two fuels compete for electricity supply in various parts of the country based on their respective costs. Because natural gas prices in the United States have been more unpredictable than coal prices, the cost of natural gas is frequently used to calculate the relative percentage of power generated by natural gas and coal. Since 2005, coal consumption in the United States has decreased practically every year. It was 60 percent lower than its peak last year. As a result, the majority of coal in the United States is used to generate energy.
This summer, natural gas prices reached their highest level since 2014. Warm weather encouraged more people to use air cooling, and as natural gas produces the majority of the country’s power, the increased demand caused prices to climb. However, they’re still nowhere near this year’s highs, which happened when a cold spell in Texas reduced natural gas supply while raising demand, causing prices to more than quadruple for a brief period.
The consequences of that brief rise were felt across the country, with ratepayers in Minnesota feeling the pinch. The Energy Information Administration predicts a lesser increase in natural gas prices this winter. This isn’t unusual, but what makes this year different is the extent and duration of the expected price hike. Due to the increasing demand throughout the summer, less natural gas was delivered to storage for the winter.