Natural gas now supplies more fuel for generating electricity than coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Natural gas fueled 34% of total electricity generation in 2016, marking the first time natural gas led coal on an annual basis. Natural gas first beat coal as the most common electricity fuel on a monthly basis in April 2015. The use of coal to generate electricity has tumbled 35 percent since 2008. Most coal consumed in the United States, 93 percent, goes to generate electricity.
As the use of coal declines, so have the jobs associated with coal. Coal mining jobs have fallen from a high of almost 90,000 in November 2011, to about 51,000 today, according the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The rise in the share of natural gas used to generate electricity resulted from more competitive prices for natural gas, and expanded capacity to utilize natural gas. Between 2000 and 2008, coal was significantly less expensive than natural gas, and coal supplied about 50% of total U.S. electricity generation. However, beginning in 2009, the gap between coal and natural gas prices narrowed, as large amounts of natural gas was produced from shale formations. Further, more natural gas plants have come online; now, every state except Vermont has at least one natural gas plant. The Energy Information Administration also indicates that environmental regulations affecting power plants have played a secondary role in driving coal's declining generation share over the past decade
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