The United States’ reliance on coal-fired power generation appears to be diminishing, despite President Trump’s best efforts to support the industry through favourable legislation.
On more days than not this year, utilities got more electricity from renewables – hydro, wind and solar – than from fossil fuel.
Last year, there were just 38 days when this was the case; however in 2020 already, the number is up to 122 days, including the whole of the month of April and all but three days in May.
While this is encouraging news in the global fight against harmful carbon dioxide emissions, the US is still lagging behind other nations in terms of cleaning up its act.
The UK, for example, went a record 67 days without any coal-fired power generation between April and June this year, when demand at the peak of the Covid-19 lockdown was admittedly low because of business closures.
Even so, that 67-day record represented the longest run without coal power since 1882.
In the US, government intervention does not seem capable of reversing the trend from coal to renewables, as natural gas is a cheaper alternative due to an increase in supply.
Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have enabled an 80 per cent increase in U.S. gas production since 2006, and about a 50 per cent decline in price. By contrast, coal prices have risen modestly over that period.