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Why Coal Lost—and Can It Recover?

July 28, 2020

Coal burn in the power sector has fallen off a cliff. Demand peaked at 1.045 billion tons in 2007. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates consumption in 2020 will be 377 million tons, a drop of 64% in little more than a decade.

The EIA is forecasting a modest rebound in 2021 (to 462 million tons) but the fundamentals—low natural gas prices, more coal plant retirements, and the COVID recession—argue against this. Moody’s Investors Services, for one, believes that there will be “minimal future recovery” in thermal coal demand and that consumption will “fall significantly in the 2020s.”

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