Average costs of fossil fuels for U.S. electricity generation 2018

The cost of fossil fuels in the electric power industry can vary depending on the source that is used. In general, fossil fuels cost about 2.83 U.S. dollars per million British thermal units (Btu) but can range from 2.06 U.S. dollars per million Btu for coal to 9.68 U.S. dollars per million Btu for petroleum.

Coal and oil prices

In general, coal and oil prices have been the most volatile, while natural gas prices have remained relatively stable in comparison. The price of Brent Crude oil is expected to reach 67 U.S. dollars per barrel in 2020. Oil blends tend to hover around similar spot prices while different coal deposit types can heavily impact the energy density carried by the coal, and thus, prices.

Natural gas price

Similar to coal, natural gas prices can vary based on the source. Natural gas prices have experienced a decline over the last decade or so, reaching about 3.55 U.S. dollars per million Btu in 2018 from 8.21 U.S. dollars in 2005. This drop in U.S. prices are likely related to more accessible and economic shale gas supplies. In natural gas markets in Asia, most natural gas is sourced as liquid natural gas (LNG) and is compressed which is easier to transport, however, the liquefaction process ends up as a sunk cost and increases the overall price.

Average costs of fossil fuels for the U.S. electric power industry from 2005 to 2018

Coal*Petroleum**Natural gas***All fossil fuels
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Release date

December 2019


United States

Survey time period

2005 to 2018

Supplementary notes

* Includes anthracite, bituminous, subbituminous, lignite, waste coal, and synthetic coal.
** Includes distillate fuel oil, residual fuel oil, jet fuel, kerosene, petroleum coke, and waste oil.
*** Includes a small amount of supplemental gaseous fuels that cannot be identified separately. Natural gas values do not include blast furnace gas or other gas.
This statistic was assembled using several editions of the report.

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Statistics on "Fossil fuel consumption in the United States"

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