Coal-fueled electricity generation in the United States
The consumption of coal has risen steadily from the 1950s to the present. Recently, coal-fired electricity consumption has decreased in the United States from 1.1 billion short tons in 2007 to 854.4 million short tons in 2014. Coal energy is primarily used for the electric power sector. In 2014, the industrial sector accounted for 1.5 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) while the electric power sector accounted for 16.4 quadrillion Btu.
An Edison plant was built for New York City in 1882 and was the first coal-fired electricity plant in the United States. By the 1950s, coal was considered the leading source of fuel for electricity generation. Declines in coal usage occurred around 2007, amidst the increased availability of renewables and natural gas. Environmental concerns surrounding coal and its emissions have also driven its gradual decline. The use of coal plants has been linked to acid rain, various emissions, and mercury pollution.
The United States was the second largest consumer of coal in the world, totaling 453.4 million metric tons of oil equivalents (mtoe). However, China’s consumption exceeds the total of many other countries combined, reaching 1,962.4 mtoe in 2014. Coal is the second most common source of primary energy in the world. Electricity generation from fossil fuels is still a primary source of fuel around the world. Fossil fuel consumption in the United States reached some 80.2 quadrillion Btu in 2014.