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U.S. Coal Production Crashes To 1978 Lows

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U.S. coal production fell another 7% in 2019—the lowest amount of coal produced in the United States since 1978, during the national coal miners’ strike, according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA).

And it is set to fall even further in 2020 as the international appetite for coal has waned with the pandemic.

U.S. coal production totaled 706 million short tones in 2019, compared to 756 million short tons in the year prior.

This year is shaping up to be even worse for coal, as production is expected to dip to levels not seen since the ’60s.

Wyoming, the largest coal-producing state in the U.S., saw a 9% dip in 2019, accounting for most of the production decrease. West Virginia, the States’ second-largest coal producer, only saw a 2% decrease last year, according to EIA data.

Arizona stopped its coal production late last year, while Kansas and Arkansas stopped production in 2017 and 2018 respectively, shortening the list of states that produce the energy source that is now looked upon most unfavorably, even among the not-terribly-climate-conscious crowd.

For 2020, the EIA’s outlook on coal production in the U.S. is grim, with the agency expecting another annual loss of 29%. The EIA uses railcar loading data to estimate production, which as of July 18, were 27.1% off compared to the same period last year.

The anticipated dip this year is primarily due to a fall in U.S. coal exports, which were 29% off as of May, compared to the same five months in 2019.

But coal shouldn’t be counted out just yet. Coal production increased for the week ending July 18, and the EIA is expecting coal production in the States to rebound 7% next year, as natural gas prices are expected to rise. This will make coal-fired electric power plants more price competitive with its “cleaner” competitor.

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