The federal government has released its short-term energy outlook, and the news isn’t good for coal. This time last year, about 44 percent of America’s electricity was generated from coal. Now, that share has fallen to 36 percent. The news was predictably rosy for natural gas: low prices and increased environmental controls on coal mean more plants are burning gas, and natural gas has continued to expand its generation share.
Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett says the state’s coal industry has been affected by the downturn. There have been layoffs at some eastern Kentucky mines, and even a few in western Kentucky.
“It is concerning,” he said. “I mean, I think one of the things we hear a lot is short term we’re very concerned, long term we’re not as concerned.”
Bissett says it’s likely there will be more demand for coal from overseas.
“As more people get electricity for the first time, there’s going to be a greater demand in this planet for coal so how does that affect us?” he asked. “How does an economic rebound that we all hope we see occur? There’s a lot of factors in play, but some of them are organic. Some of them are the weather. So, I think you have to look at all those things.”
Analysts don’t see coal making a comeback this year, and are predicting a decline of 15 percent. The industry’s outlook is slightly better next year, and coal could increase its electricity share by four percent. The most recent long-term prediction says coal will still make up about 39 percent of the country’s electricity by 2035.