A version of this post originally appeared on Compass, a Sierra Club blog.
It's amazing how much can change in a year. At this time in 2011, we were testing our hair for mercury as a way to encourage the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt strong mercury pollution protections -- which the agency did. I was also celebrating generating my first clean kilowatt of energy from brand new solar panels on my home.
A mere one year later, some jaw-dropping numbers have just come in: In the first quarter of 2012, coal made up just 36 percent of U.S. electricity generation -- down from nearly 45 percent from the same period in 2011. That's a 9 percent drop in U.S. coal use in just one year.
The report, released this week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), had even more bad news for big polluters. Electricity generation from coal may drop another 14 percent this year. The EIA also believes coal production will decline 10 percent in 2012.
Meanwhile, wind energy is thriving. In the first quarter of 2012, the U.S. installed 1,695 megawatts of wind, one of the industry's best quarters ever, up 53 percent from the same time last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Wind projects are creating jobs and economic opportunity across the country, with 32 new projects installed in 17 states in the first quarter alone.