Chart of the Day: Percent Homes Using Wood, Coal
CENSUS BUREAU -- Tracing the history of heating fuels from 1940 to 2000 shows that 3-in-4 households used coal or wood in 1940, whereas only 1.8% of homes used these fuels in 2000. Homes using coal or coke for heating fuel dropped rapidly in each decade between 1940 (55%) and 1970 (2.9%); and the rate continued to drop until 0.1% of homes used these fuels in 2000. Wood, used as a major heating fuel in 1940 (23%), virtually disappeared by 1970 (only 1.3%). Since that time, it has shown a modest comeback in 1990 (3.9%), but dropped in 2000 (1.7%). It was the dominant fuel in the Pacific Northwest and South in 1940.
Update: Here's maybe one interesting way to look at the data in the chart above. It took thousands and thousands of years before fewer than half of all American households in 1950 needed either wood or coal to heat their homes (counting the long history of Native Americans), and then it took only 50 years for almost all of the rest of the households to eliminate wood and coal as their main source of home heating fuel. In other words, what first took thousands of years to accomplish was then next accomplished in only 50 years.