Coal power is dying out, at least in the United States. And the day couldn't have come soon enough. Thanks to a glut of cleaner-burning natural gas that's driving prices down, power companies are retrofitting their plants to run on the alternative fuel, and coal's share in the domestic energy mix is declining. Really fast.
In fact, for the first time in U.S. history, the amount of electricity generated by coal broke even with natural gas. That's historic. This graph from the Energy Information Administration tells the tale:
This is big. Not too long ago, coal powered almost half the nation. Now it's dwindling away thanks to harsher regulation from the EPA and good ol' fashioned market forces.
Recently published electric power data show that, for the first time since EIA began collecting the data, generation from natural gas-fired plants is virtually equal to generation from coal-fired plants, with each fuel providing 32% of total generation. In April 2012, preliminary data show net electric generation from natural gas was 95.9 million megawatthours, only slightly below generation from coal, at 96.0 million megawatthours.
Of course, natural gas has its own massive problems—fracking and still too-high greenhouse gas emissions chief among them. But we should celebrate the beginning of the end of coal, and we should celebrate loudly and widely.