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States producing the most electricity from coal

  • States producing the most electricity from coal

    Coal power in the last decade has dropped by 40%. Today, nearly 90% of the coal mined in the United States is used for electrical power generation, which accounts for a dwindling 29.9% of the national energy portfolio, according to the Brookings Institute. While the downturn in coal use has resulted in a reduction of nearly 600 million metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 to 2017, environmentalism is not the only explanation for coal use becoming passé.

    Coal is inefficient due to its low energy density and price compared to the more abundant natural gas. Coupled with state and federal policy-supported renewable energy generation—such as solar and wind power—coal use is slated to continue dropping for the foreseeable future. With new coal-fired plants being more expensive to build than natural gas, renewable energy alternatives, and the nation’s abundant supply in natural gas, investments in coal energy generation are unlikely to make a return on investment.

    However, for states that produce large amounts of coal and have existing coal-burning facilities, the calculation may look different. Particularly for places without resources to retrofit their infrastructure to take advantage of the natural gas boom, using existing infrastructure to burn coal may not be environmentally friendly, but it may be the most economical thing to do. Continued use of coal-burning plants may be a way of keeping the state’s coal mining industry afloat. It is important to note that only two states in the U.S. have no coal energy production.

    Using 2017 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Stacker prepared a list of the states that produce the most electricity via coal-burning and ranked each state by the percentage of total electric power industry from coal.

    While the current administration has started rolling back or reversing policies to prolong coal mining and coal power generation, a future administration will probably take on an aggressive greenhouse gas remediation course in response to current policy actions, effectively making current actions with the coal industry temporary means of relief in postponing the inevitable.

    Keep reading to learn why being a coal-burning state may say more about a state’s economic health than intended.

    You may also like: Wealthiest counties in the U.S.

  • #50. Rhode Island

    - Percent of electric power industry from coal: 0%

    Rhode Island is one of the two states in the United States that does not produce coal. The tiny state also has the second-lowest electricity generation in the nation. Like most Northeastern states, most of the state’s generated electricity comes from natural gas.

  • #49. Vermont

    - Percent of electric power industry from coal: 0%

    Vermont is the only other state besides Rhode Island that has no domestic coal mining. The state is the smallest regarding electricity generation, with much of its electricity coming from its neighbors—New York and Massachusetts. Most of Vermont’s domestic energy comes from nuclear plants.


  • #48. Idaho

    - Percent of electric power industry from coal: 0.1%

    Like the Northeast, states west of the Rocky Mountains are not known for their coal deposits. Idaho is at the forefront of renewable energy generation, with much of its domestic energy generation coming from hydroelectricity.


  • #47. California

    - Percent of electric power industry from coal: 0.1%

    A West Coast state, California is coal-poor. Coupled with environmental standards limiting atmospheric pollutants, coal burning is decidedly unpopular in the state, despite California being one of the nation’s largest energy producers. Natural gas is the primary source of California’s energy, followed by geothermal sources.


  • #46. Connecticut

    - Percent of electric power industry from coal: 0.6%

    As with most New England and New York, Connecticut is neither geologically suited nor politically inclined to burn coal for energy. Connecticut is nuclear powered, although natural gas follows as a close source.


  • #45. New York

    - Percent of electric power industry from coal: 0.6%

    A large part of New York state sits on the Marcellus Shale or Marcellus Formation, which is partly responsible for coal and oil reserves for Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The Marcellus Shale has the nation’s largest natural gas reserves, leading to an explosion of hydrofracturing in the state and throughout northern Appalachia. However, the state’s weak positioning on the Utica Shale makes New York—while rich in natural gas—poor in coal and oil. Strong environmental regulations limiting coal burning in the state also helped to keep coal-burning electrical generators out of New York. The state uses natural gas for electricity generation, followed by nuclear power and hydroelectricity from the St. Lawrence River and Niagara Falls.

  • #44. Maine

    - Percent of electric power industry from coal: 0.6%

    Coal deposits in the United States are typically contained in a geographic region near a major mountain chain—like the Appalachian Mountains or the Rockies—where a conflation of overlapping shale and limestone deposits push bituminous materials close to the surface. States that engage in coal-burning either have abundant supplies of coal or insufficient resources or lack of public demand for the state to invest in upgrading its energy infrastructure. However, Maine—an affluent Northeastern state—meets neither of these requirements, and the state gets its electricity from natural gas and hydroelectric.


  • #43. New Jersey

    - Percent of electric power industry from coal: 1.6%

    New Jersey has more power generators than its neighbors. This is mostly due to interstate power sales and a large amount of industry in the state. New Jersey, like many of its Northeastern neighbors, is nuclear-powered, with natural gas as a backup.


  • #42. New Hampshire

    - Percent of electric power industry from coal: 1.6%

    New Hampshire is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Mountains. Despite that, much of New Hampshire’s southern geology is composed of mountainous granite and not shale. New Hampshire gets most of its power from nuclear generation, with small percentages coming from wood-burning and natural gas.


  • #41. Oregon

    - Percent of electric power industry from coal: 2.8%

    Unlike places in the Northeast or Appalachia, Oregon has no abundant source of consumables ready for energy production. Oregon, however, has many rivers and waterfalls. The state relies on hydroelectricity for most of its domestic energy production, followed by natural gas. Most of the state’s power generation is concentrated near its border with Washington state.


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