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Environment

Natural Gas Overtakes Coal As U.s. Electricity Source

by Steven K. Gibb
July 20, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 29

For the first time ever, natural gas has eclipsed coal as the top fuel source for electric power generation in the U.S. In April, roughly 31% of electric power came from natural gas—1% more power than from coal, according to the Department of Energy. America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) says seasonal and other market factors affect the month-to-month energy mix for electricity production. “This is the first time this has happened. I don’t think it will be the last,” says an ANGA spokesman. Analysts say financial backing for coal-fired power plants is shrinking, particularly in the bond markets, eroding coal demand. Frederick Lawrence, an economist at the Independent Petroleum Association of America, says unlike many other countries, “the U.S. continues to enjoy growth in demand for natural gas to supply feedstock for industrial sectors such as chemicals and fertilizers. This demand is key to building economic growth.” Although EPA regulations are challenging the coal sector, DOE data suggest that price competition from solar and wind energy is also a factor.

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