Coal production on track to hit historic low

Coal production in 2016 is on track to be the lowest since 1978, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s short-term energy Outlook released this week.

Annual coal production is expected to drop 15 percent this year and rise only slightly in 2017. The use of coal as an energy source has steadily dropped as low priced natural gas has become the fuel of choice for power generators. Coal still accounts for about 30 percent of U.S. electricity production, but that share is expected of decline, not only because of natural gas, but also because of the rise of  renewable energy .

Here are some other takeaways from November’s Outlook:

  • Renewable energy in the U.S. is expected to rise steadily next year,  accounting for 8 percent of electricity generation in 2016 and 9 percent in 2017.
  • Wind energy capacity is also steadily growing. Wind capacity at the end of 2015 was 72 gigawatts, and is expected to be 89 gigawatts by the end of 2017.
  • Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions dropped in 2015 and 2016, but are projected to slightly rise by 0.9 percent in 2017. Weather, energy prices and economic growth can affect emissions.