Coal was a great power source at the turn of the last century because it was easy to transport and plentiful. The obvious problem is that it basically kills the planet when you burn it and that’s not going to change despite the whole ‘clean coal’ propaganda. The good news is as we enter the 21st century coal is losing out to better energy sources. This is great because coal is the worse thing ever.
Slate has an article looking into the fall of coal and notes that less-destructive natural gas is being used. We need to curb the use of natural gas too but at least getting rid of coal is a step in the right direction.
Simply put, the U.S. energy industry has stopped building coal-fired plants, and is adding plants that don’t use coal. So far this year, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s April infrastructure report, no new coal capacity has been added, while natural gas (1.5 gigawatts), solar (937 megawatts), and wind (633 megawatts) have each added a decent amount of production capacity. Of the nation’s installed electricity-producing capacity, coal only accounts for 27.5 percent, compared with 42.2 percent for natural gas.
Wall Street has soured on coal producers like Walter in part because today’s results look bad, but largely because tomorrow’s results look even worse. The stock market is famously a futures market—investors are making bets based on future cash flows they expect companies to produce. It’s difficult to see a positive future when the main coal customers are literally dismantling the machines that burn coal.