It’s Thursday, June 4, and renewables just beat coal for the first time in more than a century.

The United States hit a new milestone in 2019: It consumed more renewable energy than coal for the first time since 1885, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Total coal consumption plunged for the sixth year straight in 2019, barreling down to its lowest level since 1964. That drop has coincided with a surge in wind and solar use in the power grid. Consumption of renewables reached 11.5 quadrillion British thermal units in 2019, compared to 11.3 quads for coal.

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With the rise of relatively cheap natural gas and renewable energy sources, carbon-intensive coal has been facing increasing economic pressure. Although coal is still second only to natural gas in the electricity sector, a slew of coal-fired power plants have shut down in recent years, a sign of the industry’s demise. In 2020 so far, companies have announced plans to shutter 13 coal-fired power plants.

Nonetheless, the EIA predicts coal might make at least a partial comeback next year, since electricity demand may increase as a result of economic recovery from the global pandemic. Still, it’s unclear whether coal suppliers will be able to ramp up production enough to compete with natural gas and clean energy, according to E&E News.

Rachel Ramirez

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The Smog

Need-to-know basis

A fuel reservoir collapsed at a power plant in the Arctic Circle last week, spilling 20,000 metric tons of diesel into a river and prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to order a state of emergency. The company that owns the plant, NTEK, didn’t initially report the incident, which government officials say they learned about two days after the spill from posts on social media.

Cities are shutting down bikeshare programs during curfews, stranding their own residents and essential workers. City officials in New York, Washington D.C., Houston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles have paused bikeshare programs during curfews put in place to limit looting and clashes between protesters and police over the killing of George Floyd.

COVID-19 stymied most major economies over the past few months, but atmospheric carbon emissions continued to rise. Global CO2 measurements reached a new record high of 417 parts per million last month. Scientists say it would take a much longer and deeper reduction in economic activity for atmospheric CO2 to drop in any meaningful way.

Zoya Teirstein

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