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Market Forces Driving Coal’s Decline

Market Forces Driving Coal’s Decline

Mining Is A Small Industry In New Mexico

There’s probably no energy source more reviled than coal.

Getting it out of the ground ruins the environment and burning it fouls the air.

Environmentalists have been outraged by President Donald Trump’s support of coal. And they say that his pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement will make it easier for the U.S. to continue burning coal.

But the Associated Press reported Thursday that coal use has been declining in the U.S. and that the decline has been driven by market forces, not government edicts or policies.

“Existing market forces have had far more of an effect on the fossil fuel industry than climate regulations,” the AP’s story said.

Here are some key takeaways from the AP’s report:

  • The biggest driver of coal’s decline is cheap and abundant natural gas. Fracking has made gas easier to get and cheaper.
  • U.S. coal production fell to 739 million tons in 2016, the lowest amount in nearly four decades.
  • From 2011 through 2016, the coal mining industry lost 60,000 jobs.
  • In 2016 President Barack Obama’s administration issued a moratorium on new coal lease sales on federal lands. But even before the moratorium, many coal companies had gone, or were going bankrupt. They had also postponed plans to lease land holding 1.5 billion tons of coal.

In New Mexico, coal mining is a small industry. In 2015, three mines in the state produced 19,679 short tons of coal, or 2.1 percent of all coal produced in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Those three mines are in the San Juan Basin in the northwest part of the state.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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