Trump powerless to stop US coal plants from retiring

During the first two years of the Trump administration, more US coal fired power plants were shuttered than in the entirety of former President Barack Obama’s first term.  Washington Post photo by Meg Kelly.

over 23,400 MW of US coal fired generation shut in 2017-2018

During the first two years of the Trump presidency, more US coal fired power plants were shuttered than were retired during the entire first term of the Barack Obama presidency.  This occurred despite Republicans’ efforts to keep 2016 campaign promises by bringing back coal mining jobs.

Data from Reuters and the US Energy Information Administration shows that over 23,400 megawatts (MW) of coal fired generation were shut in, versus 14,900 MW between 2009-20012.

Despite Trump rolling back climate change and environment rules brought in during the Obama years, the highest number of coal shutdowns was in Trump’s second term.  Approximately 14,500 MW were shut in last year.

Coal capacity peaked at 317,400 MW in 2011.  As the decade nears to a close, consumers are calling for power from cleaner and less expensive energy sources.

In recent years, cheaper natural gas and renewables have made it uneconomic for utilities to keep investing in coal and nuclear plants.

This year, generators say the expect to shut in 8,422 MW of coal fired power and 1,500 MW of nuclear power.  They will add 10,900 MW of wind power, 8,200 M@ solar and 7,500 MW natural gas, according to data from Reuters and the EIA.

One megawatt can power about 1,000 homes in the United States.

After declining for three years, US emissions of carbon dioxide spiked in 2018 as extreme cold weather boosted natural gas demand for heating.  As well, the booming economy increased fuel use, according to a study by Rhodium Group.

John Larsen, a director at Rhodium Group, said despite the spike in CO2 emissions, “there will be a limit to what increasingly cheap renewable power and continuously cheap natural gas can deliver with respect to emissions reductions”.

Natural gas emits about half the amount of carbon as coal.




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