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Utilities are Losing Their Appetite for Coal but It Will Never Go Away

Got coal? Thinning coal seams mean that producers in Central Appalachia have less of it than they once had. But more than likely, producers have coal; it’s just that they have fewer markets for it.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, coal production is expected to decline by nearly 17 percent to 746 million tons compared to the year before. That’s 25 percent less than in 2014, when more than 1 billion tons of coal were mined.

Central Appalachia and the western United States will get the hardest in 2016, with production falling by 15 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

Utilities are the biggest consumers of coal, which have reduced their appetite by the fuel from 50 percent of the nation’s electricity portfolio in 2007 to about 31 percent today. Natural gas is taking much of that market — a fuel that has seen its market share rise from about 20 percent to 34 percent, during that same time period.

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