This Chart Shows the Collapse of “King Coal” by State, and Why Miners Are Going Bankrupt

Technological innovation did it.

For decades, coal was the dominant fuel for power generation in the US. But now coal mining companies are being pushed into bankruptcy. Two weeks ago, it was the world’s largest privately held coal miner, Peabody Energy, that made the trip. They’re hounded by a slew of problems. Two of those problems are based on technological innovation.

Coal’s direct competitor in the power sector, natural gas, suffered a total price collapse starting in 2008, from which it has still not recovered. A surge of production from improved fracking technologies created a natural gas glut that has still not abated. Even today, inventories are at record levels.

It comes on top of a technical innovation in the power generation industry: the Combined-Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT). The gas turbine operates like a jet engine but drives a generator instead of fan blades. The super-hot exhaust gases are then used to generate high-pressure steam to drive a steam turbine connected to another generator. Efficiencies of these sets reach 62% and beyond.

Coal-fired power plants only use steam turbines with efficiencies that average globally 33%. In other words, 67% of the energy in coal is wasted.

That combination — a highly efficient power generator and a price of natural gas that is so low that it is driving natural gas drillers into bankruptcy — has completely changed the dynamics of the power generation sector.

The decline of coal as a fuel in the power mix started in the early 1990s when the CCGT technology took off and started replacing coal-fired generators – the oldest, least efficient plants first – even when the price of gas was higher than today.

This chart from the EIA shows the collapse of coal use (black line) for electricity generation from about 58% of the mix in the late 1980s to just over 30% of the mix now. Gas fired generation (brown line) has grown from around 10% of the mix in the late 1980s to over 30% now. This year, it’s expected to exceed coal for the first time ever. Note the rise of wind and solar power (green line), benefiting from falling costs, federal tax credits, state-level mandates, and technology improvements:


The absolute quantity of coal used for power generation in the US peaked in 2007 at 1,045 million short tons (MMst), according to the EIA. With electricity production growing very little and even declining in some years since, and with coal losing market share, coal consumption by power generators took a huge hit: by 2015, it had plunged 29% to 739 MMst.

Over the period, consumption rose only in Nebraska and Alaska. Idaho, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington DC have no coal-fired generators. In all remaining states, consumption dropped – and in some cases plummeted.

Texas is the largest coal user for power generation. But prolific natural gas production slashed coal consumption by 16%. Find your state (chart by EIA):


Of the states that slashed the tonnage of steam-coal consumption the most, Ohio (-49%) and Pennsylvania (-44%) are benefiting from soaring natural gas production in the nearby Utica and Marcellus shale plays and the often ultra-low prices at local trading hubs.

The 37% collapse of coal consumption in Indiana was also influenced by the legislature, which created a voluntary energy portfolio standard, effective 2012, that encouraged a switch from coal to nuclear, renewables, and gas.

As a result, in those three states combined, coal consumption plunged 43%, while natural gas consumption at power plants skyrocketed from 219 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in 2007 to 777 Bcf in 2015 – or 254%!

In Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama combined, coal consumption over the period collapsed by 49%, while natural gas consumption by power plants soared 202%.

This is what coal mining companies are facing. And it is becoming structural. Every year, more and more coal-fired power generating capacity is retired – not mothballed, but scrapped – while gas-fired, wind, and solar capacity is added. So even when the price of natural gas rises substantially, as it eventually will have to, it will not allow coal miners to return to their former glory.

Naples, Florida, a wealthy beach town on the Gulf of Mexico, known for its golf courses and high-end shopping, and a favorite hangout for Canadian snowbirds trying to escape their cold winters, has a problem: home sales are crashing and inventories are soaring. Read…  Canary in the US Housing Market: Canadian Snowbirds Cash Out

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  53 comments for “This Chart Shows the Collapse of “King Coal” by State, and Why Miners Are Going Bankrupt

  1. nick kelly says:

    Interesting about the dual use of the gas- first driving a turbine and then the waste heat firing a boiler. 62 % efficient! Maybe this will put an end to all the claims of clean coal- if it’s only half as efficient it can’t compete on price or emissions.
    Given the vast amount of gas in the US maybe coal should just be banned. Not that Alberta can throw stones- it’s still half coal.
    And China won’t slow down until 2030- they’re starting up a new one every week so.

    • Thor's Hammer says:

      There is another path available to increase overall efficiency of the NG energy cycle. The gas doesn’t just magically flow down the pipeline from wellhead to end user— it must be pressurized. Friction losses mean that every 100 k or so it must be re-pressurized at a total cost of up to 10% of the energy that was contained in the gas at the wellhead. A pressurization station may have as many as 5 airliner-sized jet engines running 24/7 driving compressors. I was involved in a pilot program to capture and utilize the substantial amount of waste heat generated by this arrangement.

      Before you completely swallow the clean natural gas bait, I suggest looking at the direct losses into the atmosphere from fracking, pipeline leakage, and (when used as a transportation fuel) the leakages from millions of refueling operations. And then look at the implications of a systemic treadmill where exponential increasing in drilling is necessary to keep production levels from falling off the cliff due to rapid depletion rates.

      • I supervised state operations for a large power generating consortium, which relied almost exclusively on coal, for many years. You are one of the few I’m aware of to correctly and clearly articulate the true ‘all in’ costs for natural gas power generation. Good job!

      • CENTURION says:

        This is why only Nuclear power is efficient.

    • CENTURION says:

      Coal can be turned into gas and gasoline. Coal to Oil conversion is what enabled the Nazi Wermacht to fight for 5 years and almost win.

      The technology was supplied by Standard Oil and it is why, according to the book by Anthony Sutton, the Coal-to-Oil refineries were never destroyed by Allied bombing. They didn’t want to destroy Standard Oil property. Rather, they bombed civilian targets to kill the women and children while the men were at the front lines.

      This was the technique the British Expeditionary Force used to crush the Boer’s in South Africa in 1895. They rounded up their women and children and created the World’s first concentration camps, fed them food laced with broken glass and waited for the men to surrender. The value of the “concentration” camp concept was not lost on the Nazi and Soviet governments. Extremely effective in controlling the peasants that would not bow to the natural elite. The British were ahead of their time. God Save The Queen.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        A friend of mine worked for one of those outfits. I think they used the Fischer-Tropsch technology. It lost money year after year. And teetering on bankruptcy, it sold its assets, and delisted its worthless stock.

        I don’t think anyone has made any money converting coal to liquid fuel even when oil was $110 a barrel. I don’t know where the price break is when this becomes profitable, but it’s much higher than oil ever was.

        • d says:

          The only time Coal to Oil/Gas is useful, is when somebody cuts off your Oil.

          Like almost everything in the ersatz programs (methadone being an exception). Expensive and inefficient, until it is the only supply.

        • Coaster Noster says:

          You captured the gist of it, Wolf. The reason they “were not bombed” is that the bombing was vastly inaccurate and ineffective. The Ploesti raid results were almost negligible at the cost of many men and equipment, and that was a giant, known, main source of fuel. Hitler wanted the Caspian Sea oil, and hence the Fell Blau that resulted in the Stalingrad debacle. Up until the June 22, 1941 invasion of the USSR, the Soviet Union was shipping trainload after trainload of crude to Germany. Why would you need it, if Fischer-Tropsch was reasonable??

      • nick kelly says:

        The first city to be bombed in WWII was Rotterdam.

  2. Bigfoot says:

    Like the pendulums swinging everywhere in all markets, I believe this one will eventually swing back towards a favorable outlook towards coal. I wouldn’t care to guess how many years this might take.

    We have an known supply of over 200 years worth of coal reserves based on peak production numbers from recent history. New technologies are constantly in the works. The IGCC (integrated coal gasification combined cycle) is not as efficient CCGT you write about here but it doesn’t lag too far behind. In the end I suppose it will all depend on real world production costs & whatever laws are in place.

    Completely OT-when you mentioned turbines my mind flashed back to Chryslers turbine powered car from the 60’s

    I think Peabody & some of the other suppliers here were counting on a Chinese export market that never quite materialized. I wondered about that having read so much about Chinese energy acquisitions in other fuels & with so many other countries over the past decade.

    • Thor's Hammer says:

      Funny thing about that 200 year supply of coal. Once a number is in the hands of the PR people it never dies. “Based upon peak production numbers from recent history.” Indeed. Assuming that the easiest resources are never used up first, reserves have no relationship to price, and a coal seam that slants down to 2,000 ft below the surface is a “reserve.”

      I can’t help but recall a meeting with the Wyoming Governor’s secretary of energy that I attended a few years ago. His answer to how many years of coal the state had left— 37 years!

      • Bigfoot says:

        Interesting & thanks for the post. I guess we will never know how much of any resource we truly have until we reach the end of the—mine, tunnel, shaft ?

        I’m fairly ignorant in regards to this subject but I would believe that other technologies are waiting or being developed to replace fossil fuels. In the meantime, I better go chop some more wood :-)

      • Thomas Malthus says:

        And generally these numbers are quoted based on the usage of the current population.

        As we know – population does not stand still (except in Japan of course!)

        This is quite a presentation:

        Dr Albert Bartlett: Arithmetic, Population and Energy

        • Bigfoot says:


          I’ll nominate this for the best post I have seen in a long time! Indeed, much more powerful than your 1798 essay :-) Thank you sir. May I call you Robert henceforth?

          From the vid -“Democracy cannot survive over population.” Ever wonder what happened to the ancients that had superior technology as evidenced by the many megalithic structures all over our planet & numerous other things? Were they run over by the procreation of lesser intellect? Joe Rogan has some good comedy on this subject for those who need a relief.

          From my earlier post, you could lump me into the category of the technological optimist. To me, what is missing in the presentation are mathematical equations to technological advances (as yet undiscovered or financially suppressed), & how this could affect potential outcomes, as well as realizing the fact that the math will continuously have to be done at various intervals. The current path is troubling to say the least & I have serious doubts we will escape the bell curve presented. With only my furry little forest digits to utilize, I’m incapable of educated calculation. However, I have noticed the woods I live in have a finite number of creatures & plants with which to sustain myself. Hmmmm, finite- having limits or bounds, yes indeed. OK, got it. Excuse me while I chase off the invading humanoids with my newly developed spear.

          Our entire culture & way of life is predicated on non stop growth. Our debt based financial systems can only grow with the growth of more debt. To eliminate the debt you would have to eliminate the system & replace it with something else. This won’t be voluntary & will be accompanied by much angst. Are we seeing the early stages? I believe we will only do this (change course) when all the other options have been exhausted. I’m sure that people at the top of the pyramid see this. I believe they may eventually shoot for NPG (negative population growth) rather than ZPG. Apparently the Asian society isn’t nearly as mathematically advanced as popular culture suggests.

          I suppose my technological optimism comes from the known suppression of technologies to prop up existing financial paradigms. Time limits a proper discussion of this subject but I think greed, power, & control are the overriding factors. This applies to many other fields other than energy. (yeah, there I go again with my reported evil banks, evil government, evil corporations versus the righteous peasants infecting my comments meme) What can one expect from a forest peasant?

          IMO, the other factors that will influence the bell curve will be the as yet unknown decisions that mankind will make ( either voluntarily or through exhausted options). Yes, it was 91 degrees & humid where I reside in Florida yesterday & no, I didn’t turn off my AC. Society as a whole won’t limit their comfort levels voluntarily. The flipside is that I grew up in Florida without AC for most of my childhood, oh the horrors.

          Has anyone applied math to our potable water supply? If we have had X amount of water polluted over Y time frame, when do we run out of potable water? What’s the variable, human decisions? What about natural & unavoidable events? Will we have a mass eruption of Yellowstone that destroys much of the life on earth? Then we have the unharnessed energy sources such as the humongous methane deposits on ocean floors that have energy utilization potential. At what global population level with this potential be more than a blip on the chart?

          On a personal basis, I’m trying to set up my small plot of land to be self sustaining. Theoretically impossible? Probably. What many fail to realize when it comes to taking this approach is the ridiculous amount of input (finance, labor, materials) required to get to that position. Topic for another time/day/place I suppose.

          Main thesis of the video – “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” I for one can’t argue with this.

          Enjoy the day!

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Technology… the ultimate can-kicker! (although QE ZIRP are battling for top spot…)

          Think about the Green Revolution. I was unable to foresee that petro chemicals would be developed that could be used to replace the lost nitrogen in soils allowing humans to grow massive amounts of food.

          This epic increase in food supply allowed the population to increase by billion upon billion – my prediction was wrong…

          Well… not really wrong…

          Allow me to update my prediction.

          Petrochemicals have allowed the planet to support 7.3+ billion people. That is one massive hoof of the can.

          Petrochemicals are of course finite. And as a small scale farmer here in New Zealand I am acutely aware of the fact that when you apply petrochemical fertilizers to soil you kill it — it will support no growth without years of organic inputs.

          Almost all agricultural land on the planet is farmed using chemical inputs

          So when the chemicals are no longer available — we will be left with billions of people — and no way to feed them.

          This scenario is fast approaching.

          OIL PRODUCERS NEED $100+ OIL

          Steven Kopits from Douglas-Westwood said the productivity of new capital spending has fallen by a factor of five since 2000. “The vast majority of public oil and gas companies require oil prices of over $100 to achieve positive free cash flow under current capex and dividend programmes. Nearly half of the industry needs more than $120,” he said

          But when oil is priced at these levels this happens:

          According to the OECD Economics Department and the International Monetary Fund Research Department, a sustained $10 per barrel increase in oil prices from $25 to $35 would result in the OECD as a whole losing 0.4% of GDP in the first and second years of higher prices.

          For most of the last century, cheap oil powered global economic growth. But in the last decade, the price of oil production has quadrupled, and that shift will permanently shackle the growth potential of the world’s economies.

          Of course if oil is below the break even point the producers eventually collapse into bankruptcy…

          Did anyone notice that Exxon was downgraded — and that virtually all of their profit was made from the production of chemicals? They are losing massively on upstream production.

          So pick your poison – high priced oil destroys economic growth (and leads to collapse) while low priced oil destroys production.

          Conclusion: the end game is near – and when the collapse does come — 7.3+ billion people are going to starve.

          Now I could be wrong on this — perhaps there is a way to feed 7.3+ billion people — perhaps there will be a new ‘green revolution’

          The moral of the story is that technology is no fix for anything — it simply delays the inevitable — and in the case of food it actually makes the end game look far worse….

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          “On a personal basis, I’m trying to set up my small plot of land to be self sustaining. Theoretically impossible? Probably. What many fail to realize when it comes to taking this approach is the ridiculous amount of input (finance, labor, materials) required to get to that position. Topic for another time/day/place I suppose.”

          I’ve moved to the south island of New Zealand purchasing a small farm – I’ve got mountains of compost — extensive raised beds — a 100+ fruit and nut trees — a shed full of tools (multiples of everything), toothbrushes, clothes etc etc, I’ve installed two 30,000 litre water tanks fed by spring water as well as a solar pump that can supply gravity fed water to the gardens and house… I’ve got cases of ammo and multiple guns…. a lot of gold coins … I’ve also got about a year of food in dry storage … the list goes on and on.

          But one problem. When the SHTF nobody else has this and they will be expecting me to assist them. I am relatively remote but there are 10,000 people within a day’s walk from us — and hundreds of thousands within a tank of gasoline.

          Why do I bother?

          Makes the wife feel better – the gardening keeps me in shape – I am not too far away from good skiing – outstanding mountain biking is just up the road – fresh air – no traffic – mostly friendly people – great climate – incredible seafood and produce — and because I work with Hong Kong/China the time zone is perfect – I get the mornings to do what I want then start work after lunch. Flights are also well priced out of here…

          End of the day the collapse that is coming is probably not survivable – and if it is – I expect that anyone making it through this will wish they had not.

          This well and truly is the end of civilization we are facing.

          The best solution is to live the final months/years to the fullest.

        • Bigfoot says:


          Modern mono cropping & the use of chemicals has indeed destroyed the soil structures of the modern farm. Did you ever read any of John Jeavons books? Good stuff & I’ve tried to apply those principles to my activities. I had a plant nursery at one time so I’ve a fairly long history centered around horticulture.

          Back in 2000 – 2001 when I decided to downsize my already small biz, I spent a year improving soils on an acre plot. Imported tons of organic materials, tested soils, eventually planted winter rye for a cover. I grew an amazing garden, canned a lot of produce, could walk out any day & pick lunch, & did this without petro based fertilizers or pesticides. I did have to utilize petro based fuels. It took a huge amount of resources to obtain this bounty. I chuckle at the people that believe when times get tough they can turn to gardening with little knowledge or planning. Many will be in for a rude awakening

          I remember back when a gallon of water was more expensive than a gallon of gas & yet people would complain. I would try in vain to explain what a bargain the gas was compared to the water.

          I’ve looked at aquaponics & I see some potential there. If one could find a proper flow of inputs to outputs (more than I have time to elaborate on) this might be something to pursue. I have a couple 275gal tanks & want to experiment when time permits. One the things that bothers me is the seeming lack of minor elements but I haven’t studied aquaponics in depth so I’ll quiet down.

          I can agree that technology is a double edged sword of sorts but I will most likely remain a technological optimist. Too many inventions & ideas are suppressed so the purse of a select few can grow fat. Yes, the earth has finite resources & our current path is self destruction. But, you can plant a seed, grow a plant, & greatly increase the amount of plant material on a given piece of ground with proper management & very little inputs needed. Trick is getting the soil structure up to snuff. How could this be factored in to current mathematical equations regarding sustainability??

          I believe the qualifier to the last statement of your post will be population numbers & whether or not we fall back to a more agrarian lifestyle focused on sustainability rather than profitability. I believe technology can & most likely will sway the course of events. I’ll take another puff on my hopium pipe & hope your conclusions are wrong. Seeing the ongoing desertification all over the planet, maybe I’ll take another puff :-)

          I’ll leave you with a little discovery relative to gardening that I made accidentally. When I seeded my plot with winter rye I used heavier than normal application rates so I had a nice thick stand of rye. Come spring I was going to plow it under to plant. However, I noticed there were very few weeds in the plot. Knowing I’d be turning up a large amount of weed seed, I chose to manually plant my crop seeds without turning the rye under. Between this technique & planting in blocks rather than rows, I had to do almost no weeding throughout the season.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Thanks Bigfood …

          I don’t get too carried away with the gardening because I am operating off of the assumption that when things unravel I will have loads of people at the farm gate begging/demanding to be fed

          Ironically there are loads of large orchards and veg farms in the valley below us — but they will produce nothing when the petro chems stop.

          Another issue with repairing the soils is that hungry people will eat everything that moves… so forget about manure :(

      • CENTURION says:

        Reserves are based on price.

  3. Steve M says:

    I’m curious as to the massive decline of hydroelectric power as part of the composite from 30 percent in 1950 to a mere six percent today.

    I assume that the increase in power generation needed to serve a population twice the size having five times as many gadgets to power explains why you can’t get more from the Hoover Dam.

    But then, one would still wonder why more hydroelectric stations weren’t built to accommodate the demand since i understand they are fairly cost effective and there are so many rivers to cross.

    • BoyfromTottenham says:

      Hi from Oz. Good point, Steve M, I thought that too. I would guess that the reasons for the lack of new hydro generation in no special order are (1) Anti-dam (i.e. Green) activists, (2) Lack of suitable sites (is the low-hanging fruit really all gone)?, (3) Not sexy (like solar, bird-munchers)?, (4) General investment uncertainty brought about by fracking/low gas prices, pro-AGW politicking, ZIRP, weak government, etc. The persistent investment uncertainty of the past decade or so since the GFC seems to have disrupted the global power market beyond belief, and therefore a lot of decision-making regarding all sensible forms of baseload power generation. Heaven help our kids and grand-kids if we don’t sort this out!

      • Thor's Hammer says:

        In the US virtually every economically viable dam site has already been built. And the capital intensity and long time frame of dam building means that even if a Hoover Dam site were available for free I doubt if any of the Silicon Valley VC firms would be interested in investing in it unless the Government gave them unlimited zero interest capital and guaranteed a 6% return on the free money. LOL

        • Kam says:

          Damming a river today would be inviting someone to shine the light of yesterdays disasters. Ask yourself what happened to the fish in the Columbia and Colorado.

      • CENTURION says:

        Nuclear is the most clean and efficient method. But the word “nuclear” scares old ladies and children.

        • unit472 says:

          I was pro nuclear until Fukushima. There maybe some hope with other nuclear technology but the conventional nuclear power plant with its spent fuel rods and nowhere to put them needs to stop.

          The 3/11 tsunami almost put an end to Japan as a habitable nation. There was no containment of the spent fuel pools so if anyone of them had emptied there would have been a nuclear fire at the site and that would have forced the evacuation of not just Fukushima #1 but the adjacent facility just down the coast.
          With no operators to keep the reactors cool the cascade of events would have been catastrophic on a scale mankind has never experienced.

          Japan, even now, has no plan to deactivate and make safe the reactors at Fukushima. They are trying to invent the technology to do it without much success so far. Another earthquake that ruptures the reactor containment vessels and its game over.

          The incredible thing is that Japan and other nations are seeking to export nuclear power plants to Third World nations who don’t even have the expertise, industrial and financial resources to even begin to do what Japan is having to do at Fukushima.

    • MC says:

      The problem is simple: by the time I was born (1976) all the lowest hanging fruits in the Alps had been picked, meaning every viable hydroelectric project was already completed or on the way to be completed. There can be modest updates, but we have been more or less at peak capacity here for years now.

      There have been a number of mini hydroelectric projects floated around, but they are wholly dependent on taxpayers’ largesse as they just cannot compete with solar. Solar is cheaper, much quicker to install, provokes no opposition (unless it takes up valuable farming land… been there, done that) and does not compete with corn and citrus monocolture, irrigation-heavy crops.

      • Mel says:

        There used to be a ton of mini-hydro around. I used to go on hikes through the back of southern Ontario and see the ruins of tiny plants that, maybe 90 years ago, used to power this and that. I doubt that they would add up now to enough to to be more than a rounding error in national totals, if they still existed. If the equipment could be commoditized, the way, say, power lawn mowers are, maybe people could still find a use for it.

        Further reading might be John McPhee’s essay _Minihydro_, republished in the book _Table of Contents_.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          My grandfather operated a hotel in a valley in the mountains of Austria (Achensee) that wasn’t connected to the grid at the time. They got DC power from a high-pressure water wheel (a fairly common cast-iron device maybe 2 ft in diameter you could buy at specialty stores). It was powered by water coming down in a high-pressure pipe from a spring a few hundred feet up the mountain.

          From the stories I heard, there were lots of problems with it, including bursting pipes or seals (the pressure is huge), shorts or other electrical problems when the system overloaded, with sparks flying everywhere…. This must have been a lot of fun for kids to watch.

          Unfortunately, I never saw the thing in operation since the hotel was connected to grid in the 1930s (long, long before my time). The little building where the water wheel was located is still there, but it has been converted into something else. The hotel burned down a few years ago during an off-season fire when no one was in it.

  4. Lee says:

    Peabody also went bust because of a huge multi-billion buy of coal mines here in Australia t the topof the market.

  5. night-train says:

    I don’t foresee coal ever recapturing a significant marketshare. While it is true that we have a lot of it, it is too environmentally detrimental to mine or to burn. I also think the younger folks coming along are going to demand a more sensible energy mix than we have had.

    Just something to consider. We have a huge black swan hovering just over the horizon in largely underfunded mining reclamation and oil and gas wells that will need to be properly plugged and abandoned. With so many companies going bankrupt, it may fall to the taxpayers to pick up some very large liabilities. As Rossana Rossana Dana liked to say “It’s always something”.

    • CENTURION says:

      Coal and “fossil fuels” are not an environmental problem. That is a lie created by those pushing Carbon Tax nonsense. Listen to the YouTube lectures by John Casey about what is coming.

      • night-train says:

        Centurion: I’m not a customer for your nonsense. I am a retired petroleum geologist. I don’t pretend to be an expert on all things. But, oil, gas and coal are in the center of my wheelhouse. So, your fossil fuel disinformation is wasted on me.

  6. Nicko says:

    The green line in that chart looks the most promising.

  7. Ptb says:

    Media is starting to hype nuclear as the greener option. So the PR campaign is underway.

    • Thor's Hammer says:

      Conventional nuclear reactors that use uranium to boil water are indeed greener— greener for the companies that build the reactors and complex active back up safety systems necessary to prevent them from melting down. And greener for the manufacturers that hold a monopoly on replacement solid fuel rods. The LWR is still the stupidest engineering design since the single o ring space shuttle.

      For us peasants, not so green. We just bear the uninsured risk. But we are superfluous eaters in the technosphere future anyway.

      The only energy technology that could potentially power an industrial future that looks somewhat similar to the present one is the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, but its design is too safe, the process too controllable, and isn’t good for producing plutonium for bombs so it is out of the question. And I’m not sure business as usual with a different energy source doesn’t lead down the same Sixth Extinction path we are now following.

    • CENTURION says:

      Nuclear IS Green.

      • Jim says:

        Ah, yes. So can we put the radioactive waste in your backyard? Will you be there to ensure it is kept safe for the next many thousands of years?

      • frederick says:

        yeah more like a blue glow as in 3 molten cores gone AWOL sounds like an expensive and deadly clusterflick if ive ever seen one centurion but keep on trying to convince us your checks will keep coming from the nuclear industry dont worry

  8. chris hauser says:

    excellent article.

    coal will stabilize, but it’s generally been good business for the coal barons, not the serfs. on the other hand, appalachia may vote for trump.

  9. Chicken says:

    The human race has destroyed the planet.

    Driving automobiles
    Heating and cooling your homes/automobiles/workplaces
    Consuming everything
    Encroaching on wildlife habitat (in infinite ways)
    Buying the latest greatest model smartphone.
    Belching CO2 and pooping in the rivers.

    Last one out the door please remember to turn off the lights.

    • CENTURION says:

      When you completely disconnect from the power grid (turn off your computer, TV and internet) and when you get rid of you car(s) and walk or bike AND when you buy NO product shipped by truck/car/train………………………….then maybe we will give a damn about your opinion………………….

  10. Vernon Hamilton says:

    The economics of gas driving out coal fired generation goes beyond fuel price and thermal efficiency, (as if those factors weren’t enough). The labor and material required to operate and maintain a gas fired plant is a small fraction of the coal fired plant. In my area, a 125 MW coal fired station built in 1960 recently shut down for good, it had employed 60 people. A 550 MW gas fired plant less than 10 years old in the next town has a staff of 17. Most of the guys at coal plants work on moving machinery – fuel and ash conveyor trains, grinders, pulverizers, pumps and blowers, not to mention dozers and other mobile machines. Lots of wear and tear, lots of corrosion, the occasional fire. Miserable grueling, dirty, knucklebusting work, full face respirator required, all day every day.
    The three maintenance guys at the gas plant by contrast are technicians, most of the challenge is instrumentation. The entire fuel train consists of a couple of valves. And – there is No Ash.

    Good riddance to coal burning.

    It’s true that fracking and gas pipelines impose parasitic costs, leaks and losses that must be accounted for, but so indeed do coal mines and rail transport, and ash transport and disposal is a major problem as well. I suggest that the supply chain costs of coal and gas are similar, though surely EIA can provide exact data on that point, its fair enough to say those costs must not be ignored. That applies to gasoline as well, contemplate where that stuff came from and how it got that way, next time you fill up the car.

    The real solution to the fossil fuel problem is to use a whole lot less power. Kill your air conditioner for starters.

    • CENTURION says:

      You go first. Shut off your A/C and your heating system. Shut off your electrical panel in your garage. It is easy, for you to show your love of Gia, by flipping the Main Switch in your breaker panel…..go ahead….do it….do it now….and then come back and tell us what a wonderful person you are for “killing your” electrical supply, if you can go on line. But, hey, use your iPhone to text us how wonderful you are, until the battery goes dead…………..

      Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting here playing on my computer, while my kids play their video games, the TV going, the AC going (I live in Florida) with the wife in the kitchen with every burner running on the stove, the Pool pumps running………………….and my Suburban, Camaro, and Dakota sitting in my 3 car garage…………..You go first.

      • night-train says:

        I find it very interesting that you are such a bull for fossil fuels while living in Florida. Florida, a state with minimal oil and gas production and no coal. And when it is suggested that wells be drilled offshore near Florida waters, the folks in your state have a conniption fit. I don’t blame them, after all, the tourist economy is important to the state’s economy. So you want other states to destroy their environments for your benefit. Oh, I forgot. You are a Florida Gator. That explains a lot, for me anyway.

  11. Yoshua says:

    The natural gas reserves in the U.S are at 380 trillion cubic feet and the consumption is at 36 trillion cubic feet per year.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      “Reserves” is something companies expand by exploration when they need more and when technology matures and prices are right. So grab a cold one and sit back and watch how the US is NOT going to run out of natgas in 10 years. But natgas may sell for a lot more in 10 years than it does now.

      • Thor's Hammer says:

        Reserves are also a number companies and countries pull out of their nether regions when they want to borrow money for land grab ponzi schemes or justify a new 500′ yacht for the Crown Prince.

        Saudi Arabia has the best reserve accounting system in the world. They can pump oil indefinitely without any reduction of their remaining reserves. Look it up!

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Yes. Did you see what happened to the “reserves” in California’s Monterey shale? The oil is still there, but it can’t be recovered with today’s technologies at today’s price, or perhaps at any price, and so after years of hype, 97% suddenly disappeared.

      • Posa says:

        Sorry Wolf. Not a very satisfying answer… more on the lines of magical thinking. Fracking wells deplete fast and counting on this energy source out for decades is dicey at best.

  12. Vernon Hamilton says:

    There is also, still, the global LNG market. Prior to the emergence of shale gas around 2005, the assumption was that imported LNG would increase in importance to fill the growth in gas fired generation and decline in “conventional” gas fields. A dozen LNG terminals were built around the eastern US to provide that capacity, though of course most of them are in mothballs currently.

  13. Oneyedjack says:

    EPA was created to by pass congress and voters to have unlimited power.Sadly the US coal industry will find out who they will get sold to for pennies on the dollar after the Hillary and Obama tag team of corruption/destruction.Grey Davis when gov of CA tried to legislate all utilities into bankruptcy,for pennies on the dollar.but was stopped by court of law.Now I do not believe there is anymore law . Google EPA and shut down,page after page .No oversight ever

  14. Smitty says:

    You confuse technology with fascism.

    It wasn’t “technological innovation” which killed coal but political Global Socialist Fascism and a totally corrupt central government which “sells national restraint” and US citizenship to foreign competitors, because a $600B a year trade deficit isn’t enough.

    Coal wasn’t put out of business by price, but fascism, our trading partners paid off our government to kill our industry, and our government is “so corrupt” it did this.

    Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, China, Russia, they hate US coal, it’s “unfair”, abundant and of the highest quality right on the surface, right next to transport that already exists, it’s practically free, America is energy richer than Saudi Arabia by a longshot.

    Look at “the Abengoa” it’s designed to “loot and kill nations”, and it does it really well, then look at Abengoa’s creditors, they invested in Chinese coal at the same time they invested in Western handicaps, and they invested way more in China.

  15. Smitty says:

    1000 years from now people will still be burning coal if not killed by radiation from green energy triggered debt wars.

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