In 2016, Power Plants Used 40% Less Coal Than 2010's Prediction

Takeaway: while there is no guarantee that power plants will continue to be below expectations of coal use in the coming years, these data should give us hope that future progress could be greater than mainstream predictions.

Projected vs. Actual Electricity from Coal (Trillion kWh)

Electricity from coal is 40% lower in 2016 than the DOE thought it would be based on 2010 projections.

Oil Is the Biggest Source of Greenhouse Gas Pollution in the U.S.

Takeaway: we need to focus not just on coal and gas, but also on reducing carbon pollution from vehicles.
  • Oil accounted for 43% of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in 2015, exceeding both coal and natural gas, which each accounted for 28%.

  • In 2016, natural gas is expected to emit more GHGs than coal for the first time since 1978.

Study: Coal Production and Burning Results In At Least $150 Billion in Non-Climate Damages Each Year

Takeaway: even coal's non-climate damages is reason significant action to reduce coal consumption.
  • A 2010 study finds that between $150 and $300 billion in annual negative impacts result from air and water pollution in Kentucky, West Virginia, and many other states.

  • These costs are not currently factored into the price of electricity from coalif they were, electricity prices would roughly double.

  • The study indicates that these damages are conservative, as many other pollution sources were left out of the analysis.

Converting Every Single Coal Power Plant to Natural Gas Wouldn't Do Enough to Solve Climate Change

Takeaway: we need to transition from coal to carbon-free energy, not natural gas, in order to prevent the worst climate impacts.
  • A 2011 paper finds that if the world converted all coal power plants to natural gas by 2050, the resulting reduction in global temperatures would not be big enough to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

  • Even if, optimistically, no natural gas leaked into the atmosphere during its production and distribution, the resulting temperature reduction from a complete coal-to-gas shift would still be too small to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.