Coal Production Plummeting — What This Means for Enterprise Energy Costs

It’s growing increasingly common to hear that businesses, government agencies, hospitals, and homeowners alike are making the switch to renewable energy sources like solar and wind — or at least thinking about doing so. Everyone, after all, wants to enjoy the same quality of life that they’ve enjoyed with other power sources while also saving money and helping to reduce their carbon footprint. You may find yourself wondering how effectively the renewable energy movement is actually accomplishing these goals, though. The answer is, quite a bit. In fact, fossil fuels like coal are noticing a significant drop in mining, and that trend is projected to continue.


Reduced Mountaintop Coal Production from 2008 to Present


Coal mining seems to be a dying industry. Here in the United States, for example, coal production has decreased by 15 percent since 2008.  Surface production has dropped by 28 percent, which is nothing to sneeze at but seems like nothing when compared to the change in coal produced from mines with mountaintop removal (MTR) permits. In these areas, production has decreased by a staggering 62 percent. The primary reasoning behind this drastic change? The answer can be found in the fact that there is a significantly lower demand for U.S. coal. The increased use of renewable energy generation, flat electricity demands, and environmental regulations have all contributed to this shift.


A Closer Look at Mountaintop Coal Mining Numbers


In the United States, coal is produced via surface and underground mining activity. Surface mining techniques might extend to contour strip, area, open pit, and mountaintop removal. In the case of mountaintop removal, entire seams of coal which runs through the upper portions of mountains are able to be mined as the overburden (rock and soil overlying a mineral deposit) is removed. This creates a level plateau or a rolling contour and, as such, this is sometimes considered to be a variation of contour mining.


Special permits absolutely must be granted before MTR operations can be granted. This makes it simple to identify the mines that have these permits and to estimate MTR production via mine production data. The problem lies in the ability to actually quantify the volume of coal produced through mountaintop mining. This is because there are numerous techniques that can be performed on mountaintops in addition to this type of removal. Plus, some non-MTR techniques can be used in conjunction with MTR, which makes attributing coal production even more challenging. As a result, the production data previously presented refers to the total surface production at any mines that operate with MTR permits and offer an upper bound of this type of production. Even so, the numbers still prove that coal production is declining rapidly, and we’re willing to wager it will continue to do so.


What this Means


With such a significant portion of the U.S.’s coal mining industry being decreased, enterprises which rely on fossil fuels can expect that costs for energy will continue to rise. These problems will only be expounded as areas throughout Central Appalachia (i.e.: Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky) move towards banning MTR operations in areas higher than 2,000 feet above sea level. Ultimately, this means that it’s time for corporations to start thinking about other means of obtaining energy in order to save money and operate efficiently.


Concerned about how a reduction of MTR and overall coal mining throughout the US could impact you? Ally yourself with a team of partners that are dedicated to working to meet your energy consumption goals. Reach out to NuEnergen to learn more about the Energy Sourcing services that we offer.


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