You’ve heard us say it before: America produces as much electricity from natural gas as from coal. It’s a sea change that has happened incredibly quickly.
Today, the Energy Information Administration outlined exactly how the switch happened.
Most of the new generators built over the past 15 years are powered by natural gas or wind. In 2012, the addition of natural gas and renewable generators comes at a time when natural gas and renewable generation are contributing increasing amounts to total generation across much of the United States.
Or, in graph form:
In the first chart, keep your eye on the blue relative to the other colors. In the second, look at the yellow. At the end of last year, most new generation capacity added was natural gas. Over the past decade, natural-gas generation has been dominant.
The EIA notes that only one new coal plant came online in the first half of 2012 — the Prairie State plant in Illinois. (Remember Prairie State?) That’s the main reason that Illinois leads this chart:
(Nice work, Texas, building a new oil-burning plant. If it were in Brooklyn, I’d at least assume it was hipster-retro.)
One last piece of bad news for fans of coal power. (“Go Coal!” “You’re #1! (Er, #2!)”) More and more coal units will soon be going offline.
Natural gas — and the way it’s extracted — leaves a lot to be desired. But with carbon emissions dropping due to decreased coal-burning — and with limits on coal-spawned pollution just struck down — this is certainly movement in the right direction.