US EIA: Coal is Still King

Guest note by David Middleton

Too fracking funny! (By fracking, I don’t mean frac’ing.)

SEPTEMBER 10, 2018

Coal is the most-used electricity generation source in 18 states; natural gas in 16

Electricity generators that use fossil fuels continue to be the most common sources of electricity generation in most states. In all but 15 states, coal, natural gas, or petroleum liquids were the most-used electricity generation fuel in 2017. Since 2007, the number of states where coal was the most prevalent electricity generation fuel has fallen as natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectricity have gained market share.

In 2017, coal provided the largest generation share in 18 states, down from 28 states in 2007. Natural gas had the largest share in 16 states, up from 11 in 2007. Petroleum remained the largest generation share in only one state—Hawaii—providing 62% of the state’s electricity generation in 2017. For the United States as a whole, natural gas provided 32% of total electricity generation in 2017, slightly higher than coal’s 30% share.

Beyond fossil fuels, nuclear power plants provided the largest electricity share in nine states, up from six in 2007. Hydroelectricity is the most prevalent electricity generation source in six states, up from four in 2007. Hydro is the only renewable energy source with the largest share in any state, but that may soon change with the continued addition of wind turbines in states such as Kansas and Iowa.


US Energy Information Administration

Even though coal’s lead has been cut from 17 to 2 States since 2007, it’s still in first place.  Numbers in parentheses reflect the change since 2007.

  • Coal: 18 (-10)
  • Natural Gas: 16 (+5)
  • Nuclear: 9 (+3)
  • Hydroelectric: 6 (+2)
  • Petroleum: 1 (0)
  • Total: 50

What about wind and solar?  Let’s ask Dean Wormer!



84 thoughts on “US EIA: Coal is Still King

  1. The only real risk with coal is political, in that if the Democrats backing the green blob get power, it would be an unfavored investment.

  2. So aside from Hydro-electric which environmentalist hate, California expects to be self reliant on renewables by when again? Was it 2020something? If you can imagine it you can hallucinate it better on California weed.

    • Los Angeles Dept of Water & Power (LADWP) owns cal plants in Arizona. “Generation” isn’t the same as consumption. California is using a border to mask its complicity.

      • Yes, and I think about 1/2 of the Palo Verde nuclear plant’s output goes to CA. I bet they don’t mention that too much.

        They even own some of it –
        Southern California Edison (15.8%)
        Southern California Public Power Authority (5.9%)
        Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power (5.7%)

        I think we need a special “electron tax” for the power crossing the Colorado River.

  3. There is a lot of coal.

    Based on U.S. coal production in 2016 of about 0.73 billion short tons, the recoverable coal reserves would last about 348 years, and recoverable reserves at producing mines would last about 23 years. The actual number of years that those reserves will last depends on changes in production and reserves estimates. link

    A lot can happen in 300 years. I would say that, one way or another, we don’t have to worry about running out of fossil fuel.

    • However, running out of common sense appears to be eminent. The next time the liberals own the government.

  4. Nationwide, as opposed to state by state, coal has been dethroned by natural gas, but could stage a comeback.

    US reliance on gas is why we’ve beaten the Kyoto goals without signing onto the idiotic agreement. Thanks to its high H to C ratio, burning methane (CH4) is the next thing to a hydrogen rather than hydrocarbon-based energy system.

    • The free-market, not the government, should sort that one out.

      Right now they mostly do not compete in the same market of demand.

      The price of liquid transportation fuels depends on world petroleum prices. Natural gas prices on US domestic supply, and a slowly rising demand. The demand for which is increasing due to more CCGT units coming on line to counter-balance the renewable stupid electricity and closure and non-replacement of coal units started 9 years by Obama-era regulations.

      Imagine if Natural gas became the predominant energy source for private automobiles. And full-EV’s, while charged on the grid power, will not compete for long distance POV travel for a very long time, if ever. And places like California, with its 100% renewable mandate for 2045, electricity prices, especially night time electricity prices, will skyrocket, when people need to charge their EV autos. Electricity prices per KWhr at 2X to 3X of today.

      Now imagine the price fluctuations on home heating bills like what occurs for gasoline. and LNG exports at the Gulf Coast are really just starting to ramp up as a source of demand for natural gas. In another decade, it will mature (increase) even more.


      • NG fueling is a bit more complicated than simply pouring a liquid into a tank. The fittings aren’t complicated, bu there are some thermodynamics involved if you don’t want to drive off with a ‘short fill’. Typical cylinders for fuel tanks are usually filament over-wrapped thin walled aluminum cylinders. They are rupture safe (split and vent not explode) and cannot explode even if shot with an incendiary round (sorry Hollywood). The CNG (compressed natural gas) needs to first mix with enough oxygen in the surrounding air to create a combustible mixture and even then it is deflagration not detonation (whoosh not bang). We’ve tested them. You’ll get a nice fire ball about 10 or 15 feet away from the split as the gas rapidly vents and eventually the fire plume will reach the tank, but that is not until the tank pressure reaches ambient.
        Now these safe tanks cause a minor issue. As the tanks get refilled with pressurized gas the temperature of the gas within the tank also rises (ideal gas laws) and the tanks heat up as well. So once you’ve reached the operating pressure for these cylinders they are quite warm. The problem arises once the tanks cool back down to ambient conditions and you discover that instead of 3000 psi you only have 2700, what’s know as a ‘short fill’.
        Usually this is handled by cooling the tanks as you fill them, which works well for steel or aluminum cylinders but not so much for the fiber over-wrapped tanks. They take much longer due to the insulative qualities of the over-wrap.

        • As I mention elsewhere, IMO LNG is suitable for frequently used vehicles, like commercial trucks. The need to cool the tanks makes it impractical for cars, which aren’t used so continuously.

          • Steven,

            At the busiest truck stop near Hermiston, OR, on I-84, there’s an LNG tower to refuel the long-haul fleet, too. A gas pipeline runs nearby.

            Could be the future of big rigs.

    • Doesn’t propane pack 4x the energy as methane and is easier to store as a liquid? Also I think lots of big rigs and trains mix propane in with diesel – for the energy punch and for cleaner emissions.

    • John Tillman your suggestion overlooks many American values, geography, infrastructure, economics and politics.
      I would suggest that propane is the better alternative powering many commercial vehicle fleets for over twenty years. Additionally, propane infrastructure is currently available in almost every suburban area in the United States, as well as, existing vendors supplying rural areas with bottle and bulk propane for cooking and heating.
      Major highways/Interstates would easily implement the necessary infrastructure, towns & cities not so much. I don’t see your suggestion getting any traction because the change out would be in the Billions $$$$ with no appreciable advantage either environmentally or economically. The retrofit of our pick-up trucks might be feasible but I don’t see adding the pressure vessel to contain the liquid propane with its additional weight and size in our reduced size car fleet as a realistic option.
      The aspect of engine torque is a big issue for over the road tractor trailers where Diesel is still the preferred fuel of choice. These rigs are over 60′ long and 44,000 GVW loaded. NG or Propane engines do not fit the bill without major advanced engine design—not in the works currently.

    • “The US would be well advised to run its vehicles on natural gas as well.”

      No thanks. I am saying never, at least for me.

  5. But, but, surely wind and solar are the new coal aren’t they? All those free breezes and sunshine. Cheap as chips, as they would say in England. Must be much cheaper than digging rocks out of the ground and burning them, aren’t they? Oh, and then I remembered, from my history lessons at school, that a certain bloke called Stevenson invented a coal fired steam engine that could do the job of a windmill in a fraction of the time and the cost, continually. And that was over 200 years ago. Have I missed something in the advancement of human engineering or are we going backwards if we think that the tried and failed solutions from the past will somehow take us to Nirvana and replace what actually works in modern industrialised societies?

    • ” I remembered, from my history lessons at school, that a certain bloke called Stevenson invented a coal fired steam engine that could do the job of a windmil”

      Sorry Mac …your memory fails you.
      George Stephenson developed a miners lamp (the Geordie lamp 1815) & several steam locomotives (the first in 1814).
      (the first steam loco was invented by Richard Trevithick 1804).

      The first commercially successful piston steam engine ( that could do the job of a windmil)
      was invented by Thomas Newcomen, 1712.

      Thomas Savery patented the first practical coal powerd steam pump in 1698.

    • Well, the names and dates may be off, but your sentiments are very well placed. Those in our society who clamor for the hardships of the past do so only because they have no understanding of that lifestyle, nor even their present one it seems. For them energy magically spills from slots in the wall and water pours forth over the basin. It always has, why shouldn’t always be so?

      • Very few people acknowledge the shoulders that they stand on, they seem to think the modern world either always existed or fell from the sky about the time they were born.

  6. Renewables to be effective 24/7 as electricity generators require storage systems of large capacity, apparently the lithium based batteries are currently among if not the most effective available.
    A most recent research discovered a deep flaw in the long term reliability:
    “X-rays uncover a hidden property that leads to failure in a lithium-ion battery material
    When lithium ions flow into the battery’s solid electrode the lithium can rearrange itself, causing the ions to clump together creating hot spots that end up shortening the battery lifetime.”

    • Vuk,

      As per above, IMO it would be better to run cars on methane, rather than burning methane to generate electricity to power cars.

      Electrical vehicles might become a good idea when and if battery tech improves. Graphene supercapacitors and new battery designs hold some promise of significant improvements in weight (power density), speed of charging and possibly storage as well.

      • Liquefied Nat Gas and Methane are not very dense , to get 400 miles as a gasoline powered car does on a tank of gas you would need a trailer to haul your fuel around , also very dangerous.

        • LNG is suitable for trucks but not private cars, due to the need to keep the tank cool.

          Methane does require a bigger tank range, but still can’t equal the range of a gasoline or diesel vehicle, without design changes. In Latin America, however, almost 90% of NGVs have bi-fuel engines, allowing them to run on either gasoline or CNG. Also in Pakistan, most vehicles converted or manufactured to use alternative fuel retain the capability of running on gasoline.

          Worldwide, there were 24.452 million NGVs in 2016, led by China (5.0 million), Iran (4.00 million), India (3.045 million), Pakistan (3.0 million), Argentina (2.295 million), Brazil (1.781 million) and Italy (1.001 million). The Asia-Pacific region leads the world with 6.8 million vehicles, followed by Latin America with 4.2 million.

          I enjoyed driving an NG Nissan pickup in Chile.

          • LNG (liquified natural gas) is about twice as dense as compressed natural gas (CNG) and requires cooling. It is more economical for trucks. (See Wikipedia’s entry on LNG/ refrigeration.) Wikipedia’s entry on compressed natural gas describes its 3% annual growth worldwide in automobiles, not just trucks. See

        • No you just need to provide Gas/Methane pumps at normal service stations, just as they do in countries where LPG is a common fuel. I have a ute/pick up that runs on LPG or normal fuel. Normally runs LPG as its half the price, run 91octane fuel for a couple of hours once a month just to make sure that system is still alive and well.

      • “when and if battery tech improves”

        It won’t. Not enough. You can cakculate the maximum theoretically possible energy density for a battery (a (non-rechargeable) lithium-air battery by the way). Even with 100% efficiency and no parasitic weight (i e weightless battery structure, weightless electrolyte and weightless cables and electronics) it still can’t match the energy density of gasoline.
        Another little oddity…it would weigh about five times as much empty as fully charged

      • Super capacitors have a major problem in that they can fail catastrophically (especially in a crash).
        Imagine releasing 1.8E9 Joules in <100 mS.

        • Fraizer,

          There’s no free lunch.

          Every energy technology has problems and risks.

          For instance, my preferred transport fuel, methane, is flammable, but it quickly evaporates from a burst tank. It doesn’t pool on the pavement after a crash, just waiting to be ignited.

  7. Coal can be combusted putting into the atmosphere less CO2 than a natural gas power plant.
    We have a proven patented Carbon Capture Utilization System. We didn’t invent something new. This method has been in practice for over 70 years in another industry for a different application.
    We will remove over 90% of the CO2 out of the combusted exhaust and transform it into useful-saleable products. Not only is this good for the Environment but also good for America’s Economy.

    Help us get tested at a Credited Carbon Capture Testing facility.

    • But think of the plants man, think of the plants! They desperately need that CO2. Keeping it for ourselves is just greedy.

  8. Coal in its current state does not directly support life, and we know that Carbon Dioxide directly feeds life and is integral to the Carbon Cycle of Life. Therefore, we could more aptly refer to coal as ‘carbon pollution’ rather than CO2, thus when we burn coal we remove pollution and turn it into food.

  9. Near the end the article says:

    Even though coal’s lead has been cut from 10 to 2 States since 2007, it’s still in first place.

    That should be …cut from 17 to 2 States… Coal lost 10 but the second place gained 5 which means the previous lead was 17.

  10. Hydro is the only renewable energy source with the largest share in any state, but that may soon change with the continued addition of wind turbines in states such as Kansas and Iowa.

    Bullsh!t. Kansas has reached about 35% nameplate CAPACITY. And we all know what percent of that capacity is actually generated.
    So with almost 5,000 commercial wind turbines now installed, costing approximately $10,000,000,000, we probably generate about 10% of our electricity from wind. That’s $10,000,000,000 of assets that are not contributing to tax coffers unlike the coal and natural gas that it has replaced, it has been a major dent to local communities.
    For the same investment, the state could have built two nuclear reactors with about half the capacity but close to the same actual generation, and more than twice the lifespan. That’s what they never want to mention when talking about these wind turbines, that in another decade they will be so busy replacing already installed capacity that the investment would need to double just to take any more market share.

    • That and driving from Denver to KC is terrifying and causes many to have convulsions. There is something very not right about those things.

    • Just wave some cash in front of many rural land owners and the wind turbines will get installed. This situation may have to play itself out until it fails?

      • “Not really. By 1900, fossil fuel use was already 80% of fuel mix.”

        I’m referring to the horse versus the automobile. In 1908, when the Model T first came out, there were less than 200,000 automobiles in the United States. I’m sure plenty of people proclaimed in 1908 that the horse was king.

        • No one had to subsidize the railroads or auto industry to enable locomotives and automobiles and tractors, etc. to replace the use of horses.

          • There were subsidies on railroads, to connect to a given site, or as with the SP/WP transcontinental railroad, to cross an area with no marketable commodities except at the terminus.

          • R,

            The western railroads were subsidized by land grants, although they might have been built anyway, without the US government giving them alternating townships along their routes.

          • The Great Northern was the only transcontinental railroad to be built without subsidies. It’s also the only railroad that didn’t go bankrupt. It survives today as the N in BNSF

          • Dan,


            We in the Northwest enjoy Maryhill (“Castle”) Museum on the Columbia because of Sam Hill (of the expression) and J. J. Hill, no close relation, but father of his wife Mary, thanks to these “Empire Builders”, featured in Oregon’s now embarrassing (to SJWs) state song.

          • John Tillman typed: “We in the Northwest enjoy Maryhill (“Castle”) Museum on the Columbia because of Sam Hill (of the expression)…”

            John, if by “of the expression” you mean the phrase “What in/the Sam Hill!” you are mistaken. That phrase has its origins with Samuel Worth Hill (1815-1889) who was a surveyor, geologist and mining developer in Michigan.

          • Additionally, from wiki

            Non-contender: Millionaire in Pacific North West: The millionaire Samuel Hill, a businessman and “good roads” advocate in the Pacific Northwest, became associated with the phrase in the 1920s. A reference appeared in Time magazine when Hill convinced Queen Marie of Romania to travel to rural Washington to dedicate Hill’s Maryhill Museum of Art.[11] The fact that “Father of Good Roads” Samuel Hill hadn’t been born when the figure of speech first appeared in a publication rules out the possibility that he was the original Sam Hill in question.[2][12]

        • False equivalence. The automobile/tractor was a fully functional working replacement for the horse.

          Intermittent solar and wind does not work at grid scale, unless you call subsidy farming, playing around the edges and disrupting existing grids success. I guess you can imagine any kind of rainbows and unicorns future you like and claim to be visonary, but then there is reality.

    • Your comparison is a ridiculous one. Coal power still makes a lot of sense, and in fact, makes a lot more sense than so-called “renewables”. It is relatively cheap, and abundant, and with modern coal plants can be burned quite cleanly. Sure, NG is all the rage now, but it has it’s drawbacks. Number one is, you need the infrastructure (pipelines, etc.) in place before you can use it. Number two, it’s price is very unstable, especially without coal to help stabilize it.

    • This post is like someone in the U.S. in 1908 declaring that the horse was still king…..

      …nope, it’s like replacing a horse with a St Bernard

  11. David sez:
    Too fracking funny! (By fracking, I don’t mean frac’ing.)

    We know what you mean — same as when it was spoken on Battlestar Galactica.. 😉


    My expertise is energy. Cheap, abundant, reliable energy is the lifeblood of society – it IS that simple.

    Fossil fuels comprise 85% of global primary energy, the rest is almost all nuclear and hydro. Grid-connected wind and solar power would be ZERO, except for trillions in wasted subsidies – these fail due to high cost and intermittency.

    The leftists get energy entirely wrong, because they are uneducated in science – they believe leftist political fictions instead of proven energy facts.

    The Alberta Teachers Association believes this anti-fossil-fuel idiocy – they choose leftist fanatic speakers like Suzuki and Berman, who have no technical credibility. They have proclaimed that they are uneducated and radically politicized. I don’t want anyone this imbecilic teaching my children.

    • Absolutely, Allan
      Frank Herbert was also a Geologist.

      “It’s a rule of ecology,” Kynes said, “that the young Master [Paul] appears to understand quite well. The struggle between life elements is the struggle for the free energy of a system.-Dune, Frank Herbert

      Harnessing the (cheap) free energy of fossil fuel combustion, nuclear fission, and hydro-electric is what allowed human beings to reach a higher level. It allowed us to escape from the drudgery of the low energy-density of the natural environment. It is what distinguishes us from the lower life-forms. It ranks up there with language, the wheel, and opposable thumbs.

      It is distressing to me that so many people think we could do without it.

  13. Growth in electricity production by August 2011 in India and USA:

    Res: 11% — 3.8%
    Nuclear: 2% — 21.5%
    Hydro: 21% — 6.0%
    Diesel: 01% — —
    Gas: 10% — 19.8%
    Coal: 55% — 48.9%


      • See the first sentence, India and USA; % means % of total power produced respectively in India and USA — RES = renewable Energy production; 11% in India and 3.8% in USA
        Nuclear = Nuclear power; 2% in India and 21.5% in USA
        Hydro = Hydropower production; 21% in India and 6.0% in USA
        Diesel = Diesel power; 1% in India [generators]
        Gas = Gas based power production; 10% in India and 19.8% in USA
        Coal = Coal based power production; 55% in India and 48.9% in USA

  14. Fine by me and, from the looks of lignite use, also by “green” policy world champion Germany.

    However. Based on NASA’s discovery of Kraken Mare in Saturn’s moon Titan. The EIA could use a more general term (e.g. inorganic hydrocarbon or hydrocarbon fuel) acknowledging universal availability, instead of implying the necessity of long established biosphere (i.e. fossil fuel). It’s doubtful anyone would seriously try to claim them mutually exclusive.

  15. Coal with the newest fluidized-bed boilers is like the latest nuclear — a reliable, safe & proven energy source, but banned for purely political reasons. To replace these reliable, dispatchable energy sources w/non-dispatchable, weather & time-dependent wind-power and solar panels is beyond stupid.

  16. For every 100W of new increased production year over year in June, 3.5W of them were renewables…

    I’d say renewables have a bit of a “scaling” issue.

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