Monday, April 16, 2012

Energy Facts of the Day: The "Decline of Coal"

1. "Total U.S. carloads of coal by rail during the first quarter of 2012 fell to 1.55 million carloads, the lowest level for any quarter since the beginning of 1994, as demand for coal by the U.S. electricity sector decreased." Source: EIA

2. "Although still the largest single fuel for electricity generation, coal's share of monthly power generation in the United States dropped below 40% in November and December 2011. The last time coal's share of total generation was below 40% for a monthly total was March 1978. A combination of mild weather (leading to a drop in total generation) and the increasing price competitiveness of natural gas relative to coal contributed to the drop in coal's share of total generation." Source: EIA

35 Comments:

At 4/16/2012 4:15 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Amazing...the marketplace did in just a few months what the EPA has been trying to do for 30 years: get America off of coal.

 
At 4/16/2012 4:44 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

Renewables, esp. Wind, and Solar, are taking an ever-larger chunk, also.

 
At 4/16/2012 4:53 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Peabody Coal has the great stock symbol BTU. So, how has the nations largest coal producer's stock done the last year?

BTU has cooled its value by over half the last 12 months.

 
At 4/16/2012 6:14 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

there are those who think the nat gas boom is short-lived and a return to coal is inevitable.

What's also not clear is just how many nat gas power plants exist to be used for base load rather than dispatch.

Normally, don't the power companies run the base load plants and supplement with nat gas turbine plants when demand exceeds baseload?

the coal plants don't ramp up or down as quickly as nat gas plants do... so reduced coal usage seems to indicate a change in the way that baseload is being generated.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the older, higher-polluting plants going offline and nat gas picking up the slack?

 
At 4/16/2012 8:05 PM, Blogger Methinks said...

Is that really what the EPA's been doing, Jon Murphy?

 
At 4/16/2012 8:05 PM, Blogger Abir Mandal said...

Larry: It depends. CCPPs are excellent as base load generators and can be ramped up and down as needed.

 
At 4/16/2012 8:06 PM, Blogger Abir Mandal said...

Jon: EPA has been trying to make govt bigger. There is no other purpose for this useless sack of vermin.

 
At 4/16/2012 8:09 PM, Blogger Abir Mandal said...

Rufus: Not true. Wind and solar account for less than 5% of generation in the US. And this after massive subsidy and scamming of taxpayers and purchasers alike.

 
At 4/16/2012 8:15 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Is that really what the EPA's been doing, Jon Murphy?

Indirectly, sure.

I doubt anyone at the EPA would say that's their mission, but look at some of the regs they've passed and legislation they've championed.

BTW, I am in no way supporting the EPA. I was just making a point that when clean energy becomes viable, we will move towards it. Anything before that will just be a waste of time and money.

 
At 4/16/2012 8:20 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Renewables, esp. Wind, and Solar, are taking an ever-larger chunk, also.

Even with the massive subsidies they are not making a dent. For the utilities the play is using natural gas produced at less than cost for as long as the shale producers stay afloat. When that bubble bursts they can go back to coal.

 
At 4/16/2012 9:00 PM, Blogger Ken said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/16/2012 9:00 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Rufus,

less than 0.5% of the world's energy comes from wind, tide, wave, solar and geothermal put together. Solar and wind is doing nothing to drive down the demand of coal as a source of energy.

 
At 4/16/2012 11:20 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

You guys just make it so easy (and so much fun.)

■Coal decreased 113,025,000 MWH in 2011 (1,847,290K in 2010 to 1,724,265K in 2011)
■Nuclear decreased 16,743,000 MWh in 2011 (806,968K in 2010 to 790,225K in 2011)
■Natural gas increased 28,898,000 MWh in 2011 (987,697K in 2010 to 1,016,595K in 2011)
■Renewable energy increased 92,791,000 MWh in 2011 (427,276K in 2010 to 520,067K in 2011)

In other words, more than 3 times as much renewable energy generation was added (net) compared to natural gas generation! (And remember, there are 3 reasons natural gas won’t be so cheap and competitive with clean energy for long.)


Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/18HYa)
■Coal decreased 113,025,000 MWH in 2011 (1,847,290K in 2010 to 1,724,265K in 2011)

■Nuclear decreased 16,743,000 MWh in 2011 (806,968K in 2010 to 790,225K in 2011)

■Natural gas increased 28,898,000 MWh in 2011 (987,697K in 2010 to 1,016,595K in 2011)

■Renewable energy increased 92,791,000 MWh in 2011 (427,276K in 2010 to 520,067K in 2011)

In other words, more than 3 times as much renewable energy generation was added (net) compared to natural gas generation! (And remember, there are 3 reasons natural gas won’t be so cheap and competitive with clean energy for long.)

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/18HYa)

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/18HYa)

Article with link to EIA Data

 
At 4/16/2012 11:29 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Rufus,

I see you didn't bother to read the first two paragraphs of the article to which I linked. Here are the relevant passages:

[T]he Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a thousand-page report on the future of renewable energy, which it defined as solar, hydro, wind, tidal, wave, geothermal and biomass. These energy sources, said the IPCC, generate about 13.8% of our energy and, if encouraged to grow, could eventually displace most fossil fuel use.

It turns out that the great majority of this energy, 10.2% out of the 13.8% share, comes from biomass, mainly wood (often transformed into charcoal) and dung. Most of the rest is hydro; less than 0.5% of the world's energy comes from wind, tide, wave, solar and geothermal put together.


Wood and dung, Rufus, make up the bulk of the "renewable energy" sources to which your article refers. To reiterate, solar and wind is doing nothing to drive down the demand of coal as a source of energy.. It helps to know what is meant by "renewable energy" before you go flapping your gums.

Try harder next time to make your case.

 
At 4/16/2012 11:37 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

More Wind facts:

•In the past 5 years, wind power projects and manufacturing (and supportive wind power policies) have brought in as much as $20 billion annually in private investment in the U.S.
•35% of all new U.S. power capacity in the past 5 years has been from wind power.
•A typical U.S. wind turbine now generates 30% more electricity than a typical wind turbine 5 years ago.
•Nearly 500 new American manufacturing facilities have been built in the past 5 years.
•6,816 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity were installed in 2011, 31 percent higher than 2010.
•There are now 46,916 MW of wind power capacity installed in the U.S.
•There are more than 8,300 MW of wind power capacity under construction.


Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/19l0y)

Source

 
At 4/16/2012 11:39 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

Ken, what in the world does "wood and dung" in Africa have to do with electricity generation in the U.S.?

 
At 4/16/2012 11:43 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

You need to click on MY link, and go to the EIA Data.

I mean, it's not the whoosis of International climate change, or what not, but it is U.S. Data.

 
At 4/17/2012 12:05 AM, Blogger Ken said...

I did go to your link. It doesn't, nor what you've linked to, contradict the fact that wind and solar power account for less than 0.5% of the worlds power. In other words, to the nearest whole number, wind and solar power account for 0% of the world's power. A 35% increase of a small number is still a small number. On top of not knowing that "renewable energy" means more than solar and wind, now you're bad at statistics.

You ask what in the world does "wood and dung" in Africa have to do with electricity generation in the U.S.? Seriously? You don't know that energy markets are global? Meaning anything that slackens demand oil and coal slackens the pressure on the price of oil and coal. Also, it has to do with "renewable energy" because in the accounting of "renewable energy", wood and dung accounts for 73.4% of all renewable energy. Over 22% of "renewable energy" is hydro. This leaves less than 4% of 13.8% (less than 0.5% of total energy) attributed to solar and wind.

Since solar and wind account for such a small fraction of power in the world, to reiterate again, solar and wind is doing nothing to drive down the demand of coal as a source of energy. Unless all those other statistics you're throwing out increases from the anemic less than 0.5% to a more healthy and robust percentage, all those other statistics don't mean crap.

 
At 4/17/2012 12:09 AM, Blogger Ken said...

In other words, solar and wind power output could increase by 100% and still not produce 1% of the world's power.

 
At 4/17/2012 2:27 AM, Blogger Oak said...

Rufus, that website is doing two things with the EIA data that are misleading:

1) Using the full year data, when natural gas prices really got below $3 around November or so. They were basically normal until about June. The monthly usage data is right there in the same charts.

2) Not distinguishing hydroelectric from renewable when 2/3 of hydroelectric's increase was in the first half of last year. And also when hydroelectric made up 70% of the change in renewables.

Using just the last 3 months of the data, the picture is different. Or even 6 months, although hydro dominates other renewables in the 6 month comparison, like in the yearly.

For the 3 months:
Coal down 90,459k
Gas up 32,198k, with $16,755k just from January compared to the prior January.
Hydro up 1,143k
Other Renewable up 9,715k

Out of Other renewable, wind is 9,180k of it.

My bet is that post will not be updated for 2012 because even with just December and January it is such a clear swap out that Feb. and March are probably going to be even clearer.

 
At 4/17/2012 5:30 AM, Blogger Rufus II said...

Yes, Oak, but you, also, are overlooking something. Nat gas is Not going to stay at two, and three dollars - not when it costs, probably, $6.00/kcuft to profitably "frac" it.

Wind, however, is down to $1.90/Watt, installed capacity, and dropping, and Solar Panels are down to $0.85/Watt, and dropping.

 
At 4/17/2012 5:32 AM, Blogger Rufus II said...

In short, the future is much more likely to look like "last year" than it is to look like the last 3 months.

 
At 4/17/2012 7:27 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

In other words, more than 3 times as much renewable energy generation was added (net) compared to natural gas generation! (And remember, there are 3 reasons natural gas won’t be so cheap and competitive with clean energy for long.)

You are falling for hype my friend. The percent of energy that comes from wind or solar, which is what you are thinking of as renewable energy, rounded out to the nearest percent is ZERO. That's right. Even with all of those massive subsidies solar and wind do not even register. The hype is all about fleecing consumers and investors and transferring wealth to the renewables industry, not about producing energy at a competitive price. To see things as they are you need to look and analyse the data yourself, not a packaged narrative that mixes in biomass and hydro in the hope that it fools readers.

 
At 4/17/2012 7:41 AM, Blogger Rufus II said...

You'll just have to take that up with the EIA, bubby.

They have slightly different numbers.

 
At 4/17/2012 7:47 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

•In the past 5 years, wind power projects and manufacturing (and supportive wind power policies) have brought in as much as $20 billion annually in private investment in the U.S.

Yes, but it has not produced electricity that can compete with electricity produced by coal, nuclear, or natural gas.

•35% of all new U.S. power capacity in the past 5 years has been from wind power.

Of course. When the real economy contracts you don't need much new power capacity. And when mandates force utilities to get more power from expensive renewable sources there is an artificial market. But I do not believe that consumers really want more expensive power from wind or solar. If they did the market would provide it without the subsidies and mandates.

•A typical U.S. wind turbine now generates 30% more electricity than a typical wind turbine 5 years ago.

And it still can't compete with natural gas, coal, or nuclear.

•Nearly 500 new American manufacturing facilities have been built in the past 5 years.

But the more expensive power has cost jobs in the rest of the economy.

•6,816 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity were installed in 2011, 31 percent higher than 2010.

I hate to bring this up but the US generates 4 billion megawatts a year. The new capacity is only 0.0002% of the total. But given the fact that you have to divide capacity by four to get the amount of new electricity generated you are looking at 0.00005% of your power coming from the new installation of wind turbines. The same amount of money invested in a coal facility would bring more than ten times the power at a much lower cost and a much lower impact on the environment.


•There are now 46,916 MW of wind power capacity installed in the U.S.

That means that you are producing about 12,000 MW of wind power from wind. That is out of a total of around 4,000,000,000 MW total. Round it up to the nearest percent and we get a big fat ZERO percent of the total coming from wind.

•There are more than 8,300 MW of wind power capacity under construction.

It still does not solve your problem. You still get ZERO percent of the total coming from wind and very high costs. I am not even mentioning the damage done to bats and birds and the need for the much greater use of pesticides by farmers needing to protect their crops. (In case you don't know the bats do a number on the insects that feed off crops.)

 
At 4/17/2012 7:52 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Wind, however, is down to $1.90/Watt, installed capacity, and dropping, and Solar Panels are down to $0.85/Watt, and dropping.

Look to Europe. Without the subsidies the wind and solar companies are toast. They may be fine one day when the problems are worked out but they are clearly not economically viable today. Unless someone worked for these companies or was foolish enough to invest in them I wonder why anyone support such a waste of resources.

 
At 4/17/2012 8:37 AM, Blogger W.E. Heasley said...

rufus II

"Renewable energy increased 92,791,000 MWh in 2011 (427,276K in 2010 to 520,067K in 2011"


There is a world of difference between an “increase” in demand by free people in a free market place and a subsidized supply and a coerced demand in a the-way-things-ought-to-be third party centrally planned economy.

“This way lies charlatanism and worse. To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.

But in the social field the erroneous belief that the exercise of some power would have beneficial consequences is likely to lead to a new power to coerce other men being conferred on some authority. Even if such power is not in itself bad, its exercise is likely to impede the functioning of those spontaneous ordering forces by which, without understanding them, man is in fact so largely assisted in the pursuit of his aims.” - F.A. Hayek, from the essay The Pretense of Knowledge

 
At 4/17/2012 10:55 AM, Blogger NormanB said...

I wonder how Buffett's big, big bet on Burlington Northern is working out. He did buy a lot of gas pipeline business, though.

 
At 4/17/2012 11:52 AM, Blogger Ken said...

Rufus,

Yes, Oak, but you, also, are overlooking something. Nat gas is Not going to stay at two, and three dollars - not when it costs, probably, $6.00/kcuft to profitably "frac" it.

So naturally your buying up truck loads of natrual gas futures at $2-3 because you know that they will soon be around $6, right? If not, why not? A guaranteed 100% return on investment and you're not taking advantage?

 
At 4/17/2012 1:20 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Rufus sez:

"Na-na-na I've got my fingers in my ears and I'm not listening. Don't bother me with unpleasant facts, I enjoy reading and citing CleanTechnica, where reality isn't an issue.

 
At 4/17/2012 1:48 PM, Blogger Oak said...

Rufus II said...
In short, the future is much more likely to look like "last year" than it is to look like the last 3 months.


Somewhat, but that is mainly because there are things like the legal requirement that California utilities get 1/3 of their supply from renewables by 2020. At great cost in taxpayer subsidies and consumers' electricity bills covering the blended electricity cost.

Comparative costs matter except for the mandated renewables.

Also, the hydroelectric was a reversal of a long term decrease. For some reason it popped up to 1998 levels. That is not going to happen again. So natural gas will likely be a much larger increase than renewables.

If the natural gas price goes up, coal becomes relatively attractive again, which will lower demand and the price again, and cycle again.

 
At 4/17/2012 2:23 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Also, the hydroelectric was a reversal of a long term decrease. For some reason it popped up to 1998 levels. That is not going to happen again. So natural gas will likely be a much larger increase than renewables.

It is amazing what happens when you get a lot of rain when it was not expected. It is actually possible for hydro to increase yet again because if there is a change in the trend it is likely to persist for a while. Those old reservoirs that were producing little may yet increase their output higher. Ironically, this change in trend should be negative for the subsidies and mandates in areas that are not dominated by green dimwits.

 
At 4/17/2012 3:46 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Wind, however, is down to $1.90/Watt, installed capacity, and dropping, and Solar Panels are down to $0.85/Watt, and dropping"...

On what planet rufus regarding wind power?

New Report: Economic Analysis Reveals Wind Power ‘Worse Than a Mistake’

The Real Cost of Solar Energy

 
At 4/17/2012 4:00 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

New Report: Economic Analysis Reveals Wind Power ‘Worse Than a Mistake’

Why are we quibbling over an order of magnitude? The fact that wind will cost ten times that of natural gas when the price of that natural gas is more than $15 per Mcf is nothing compared to the satisfaction that we get from harnessing the wind and seeing the occasional bird that survives.

The Real Cost of Solar Energy

Aren't we picky my friend. In our wealthy world can't we afford €571,138 per "green job" or subsidies of €1 million per wind industry job? And what if each noble "green job" destroys 2.2 evil jobs in the rest of the economy. Who needs those manufacturing jobs that leave in search of affordable energy costs? Not us wealthy Westerners. And why is the increase in the price of electricity such a bad thing? After all, we were told that we have to deindustrialize and get closer to the type of living standards that were enjoyed by our grandfathers. And we all know that they didn't use nearly as much electricity as we do.

The people in rufus' planet certainly seem to be wiser and better informed. If you listen to the people that you elected to Congress we should be more like them.

 
At 4/17/2012 4:42 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Aren't we picky my friend. In our wealthy world can't we afford €571,138 per "green job" or subsidies of €1 million per wind industry job? And what if each noble "green job" destroys 2.2 evil jobs in the rest of the economy"...

Well good point vangeIV...

Just look at how much fun the Spaniards are having...:-)

Silly me...

 

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