Curtis Tate Published

Coal Production Lags In First Two Weeks of April, Federal Data Show

A train of black and gray railcars carrying coal passes through an Amtrak station on an overcast day.
A CSX coal train passes through the Amtrak station in Charleston.
Curtis Tate/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Coal has seen a slump in production this month, according to federal data.

U.S. coal production fell below 8 million tons the first two weeks of April, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

A year ago, the United States produced about 10 million tons of coal during the first half of the month. Year to date, coal production is down more than 16 percent.

Coal was once the dominant fuel for producing electricity but it has been overtaken in recent years by natural gas and increasingly renewables such as wind and solar.

Further data show that coal’s market share for U.S. electricity has been under 15 percent for the past two months.

At its peak in 2008, the country produced 23 million tons a week and it commanded more than 40 percent of U.S. electricity generation.

The sector will lean more heavily on exports, the Energy Information Administration reported, though the temporary closure of the Baltimore export terminals will dent those numbers as well.

Production in West Virginia is down 14.5 percent from a year ago, according to the agency, and 13.5 percent in Appalachia.

A mild winter can cut into electricity demand, and natural gas prices are lower as well, eroding coal’s competitiveness.