While Donald Trump vowed to revive the coal industry, it’s President Joe Biden who’s seeing a big comeback of the ‘dirtiest’ fossil fuel despite Biden’s ambitious plan to eliminate carbon emissions from the power grid.
U.S. power plants are on track to burn 23% more coal this year, the first increase since 2013. The rebound comes after consumption by utilities plunged 36% under Trump, who slashed environmental regulations in an unsuccessful effort to boost the fuel.
That’s going to increase emissions at a time when Biden and other world leaders prepare to gather in Scotland in a few weeks, hoping to reach a deal on curbing fossil fuels in a last-ditch effort to save the world from climate change.
The boom is being driven by surging natural gas prices and a global energy crisis that’s forcing countries to burn dirtier fuels to keep up with demand. It’s also a stark reminder that government policy can steer energy markets, but it can’t control them.
As the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, reopening economies are driving a huge rebound for power demand. But natural gas is in short supply, creating shortfalls at a time when wind and hydro have been unreliable in some regions.
Europe and Asia have been hit the worst, with skyrocketing markets, blackouts in places like India, power shortages in China and the threat of outages in other countries. Energy prices are also soaring in the U.S., though not to the same extremes. The situation is driving up coal demand around the world, and in the U.S.
The shift means that coal will supply about 24% of U.S. electricity this year, after falling to 20% in 2020, an historic low after years of efforts to push utilities toward clean power and amid cheap natural gas supplies.