The U.S. coal industry is highly competitive, both regionally and nationally. In addition to competition within the eastern United States region, coal is transported into the region from the western United States and by foreign producers for purchase by utility customers.
In 2011, the United States produced about 1.1 billion tons of coal, or about 35% of the world’s coal supply – second only to that of China.
As of the beginning of 2011, there were 1,285 coal mines in the U.S., the vast majority of them in the Appalachian region (1,098).
The industry employs nearly 136,000 people.
The United States has more than a 235-year supply of coal if it continues using coal at the same rate at which it uses coal today.
- More than 2.3 million acres of mined lands have been reclaimed over the past 25 years – that’s an area larger than the state of Delaware.
Industry Projections *
Over the next 25 years, the share of electricity generation from coal is expected to fall to 38 percent, well below the 48-percent share seen as recently as 2008, due to slow growth in electricity demand, increased competition from natural gas and renewable generation, and the need to comply with new environmental regulations.
The natural gas share of electric power generation is expected to increase from 24 percent in 2010 to 28 percent in 2035.
Cumulative retirements of coal-fired power plants through 2035 are projected to be between 34 gigawatts (11 percent of coal-fired generator fleet) and 70 gigawatts (22 percent of the fleet).
- Electricity demand is expected to remain relatively slow, as growing demand for electricity services is offset by efficiency gains from new appliance standards and investments in energy-efficient equipment.
* Per the Annual Energy Outlook 2012, produced by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, June 2012