Curtis Tate Published

U.S. Coal Consumption Falls 25% In 1st Quarter As Production Stays Flat

A yellow bulldozer moves a mound of black coal at a power plant in West Virginia.
The coal pile at the Mountaineer Power Plant in Mason County, West Virginia.
David Adkins/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

U.S. coal consumption declined about 25 percent during January to March of 2023 from the first three months of 2022.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Quarterly Coal Report, the 100.3 million tons consumed in the first quarter, mostly to produce electricity, was the lowest since the COVID-19 onset in April to June 2020.

However, production of coal stayed virtually flat. Production increased in Appalachia by 6.5 percent overall, and 14.5 percent in Central Appalachia.

West Virginia production increased 7.2 percent statewide and 15.4 percent in the south.

Production increased 7.1 percent in Kentucky, 3.9 percent in Pennsylvania and 13.8 percent in Virginia, but declined 30.7 percent in Ohio.

Production in Wyoming, the leading U.S. coal producer, fell 3.6 percent. West Virginia ranks second, followed by Pennsylvania, Illinois and Kentucky.

U.S. coal exports increased by about 20 percent, to 24.6 million tons. Coal stockpiles also increased from early 2022 to early 2023, from 90.4 million tons to 114.3 million tons.

Still, U.S. consumption in early 2022 was around half what it was in the July to September quarters of 2017 and 2018. That likely reflects the ongoing retirement of coal plants as well as the decreased use of others still operating.