For the past two years or so, I have been telling students that the proliferation of natural gas production is one of the most significant stories — and certainly environmental stories — of the past decade. I give you further proof from the Energy Information Agency website on electricity generation:
[F]or the first time since EIA began collecting the data, generation from natural gas-fired plants is virtually equal to generation from coal-fired plants, with each fuel providing 32% of total generation.
The 32% number for coal is astoundingly low, as within the past decade the conventional wisdom was that coal was likely to provide the majority (>50%) of electricity generation.
The Washington Post included this graph in its blurb on the demise of US coal.
This brief from a few months back shows previous data in the right-hand box, and breaks down trends in the share of net generation in the left-hand box. The accompanying text provides some reasons for the decline:
What does it all mean? Well, it means a lot. One of the causes of the switch is the much, much lower price of natural gas over the past several years. The switch from coal to natural gas also significantly reduces carbon emissions per unit of electricity output.