The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected Tuesday that 2018 would see the lowest U.S. coal consumption since 1979, reports The Associated Press.
The federal report also noted that the U.S. would see the second-greatest number on record of coal-fired power plants shutting down this year.
“Only one, relatively small, new coal-fired generator with a capacity of 17 megawatts is expected to come online by the end of 2019,” the EIA wrote. “The decline in coal-fired capacity is expected to further reduce coal consumption: EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook expects power sector coal consumption to fall 4 percent in 2018 and 8 percent in 2019.”
The sharp drop in U.S. coal demand has been attributed to competition from increasingly abundant and affordable natural gas and renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. The AP notes that “tougher pollution rules also have compelled some older, dirtier-burning coal plants to close rather than upgrade their equipment to trap more harmful coal emissions.”
Just last year, Trump declared “The coal industry is back” at a rally in West Virginia last summer. Trump campaigned extensively on promises to save coal, but closures of coal plants doubled this year compared to 2017.
Federal government figures disagree with Trump’s claims.
Trump “talks tough to the coal miners to get their support, but he doesn’t deliver for them, and I don’t think that he can, because the markets are bigger than him,” said Joe Pizarchik, who directed the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement in the Obama administration.