Feb 10, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Coal is set for a miniature pandemic rebound

Data: U.S. Energy Information Administration; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. coal production is still slated for a bounce-back from the pandemic lows, but it may be smaller than federal analysts previously thought.

Driving the news: The latest Energy Information Administration estimates show U.S. production rising 9% this year, down from their prior guess of 12%.

The big picture: The long-term trend for coal, once the largest U.S. power source, is still downward.

  • But as I noted here, expected increases in coal and oil output in 2021 and 2022 illustrate an irony. President Biden, who has vowed aggressive steps on climate change, is initially likely to preside over an increase in coal and oil production.
  • Sources that took the biggest pandemic hits return to some degree. Market forces — namely projections of natural gas prices — are at play in coal's mini-rebound, per EIA. 

By the numbers: EIA sees annual U.S. coal production rising this year to 589 million short tons, and ticking up slightly again in 2022.

  • Its share of power generation is projected to rise from 20% last year to 22% in 2022. But it provided well over half of U.S. power earlier this century.
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