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Average citizen, business loses when coal slips

July 11, 2012
The Mining Journal

They may have been high-fiving each other in the White House recently, after a report indicating the smallest percentage of the nation's energy in nearly 40 years was generated from coal in March. President Barack Obama's war on the coal industry is working.

But in millions of homes where electric bills are going up and thousands of industries where reasonably priced power is the difference between success and telling employees they've been laid off, the reaction ought to have been different.

Only about one-third of the nation's electricity came from coal-fired generating plants in March, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports. Nearly the same amount, 30 percent, was from power stations fueled by natural gas.

Less than two years ago the numbers were different. In 2010, Americans relied on coal for 44.8 percent of their electricity.

But now Obama, using the Environmental Protection Agency as his club, is pounding the coal industry hard. Natural gas is the fuel of choice for power plants, the White House makes it clear.

Electric utility executives have gotten the message. The EIA predicts that from 2013-15, just four new coal-fired power plants will be built in the United States. During the same period, 104 new gas-fueled stations are expected.

But even at today's depressed prices, it costs much more to generate power from gas than coal.

A government report shows utility companies spend about $2.41 to generate 10 million BTUs of energy from coal - and about $3.70 for the same amount from gas.

In other words, if your utility is planning to switch - and most are - prepare for electric bills more than 50 percent higher than now. That won't please most people, but it makes the White House happy.



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