Red States, Led By Texas, Spearheaded 'War On Coal'

When carbon emissions from coal plants dropped by record amounts in 2015, Texas led the charge, according to a new analysis from the Energy Information Administration. Nine of the ten states where emissions dropped the most in 2015 turned out to be red states that would go for Trump in 2016.
EIA attributes most of the drop to competition from natural gas, although Texas also got a boost from its flourishing wind industry.
"Most of the decline in 2015 U.S. coal consumption occurred in the electric power sector, where reduced coal-fired electricity generation was largely offset by higher natural gas-fired electricity generation," says EIA economist Owen Comstock in an analysis released this month.
Comstock attributes some of the reduction to the shuttering of coal plants that faced an April 2015 deadline to comply with Obama Administration clean-air regulations.
A Texas-based analyst who studied those closures this summer for the Department of Energy—a department now led by Texan Rick Perry— concluded the compliance deadline served as a convenient date to close old plants that were already losing money in competition with gas.
"The most important thing: the coal and nuclear plants that retired were old, really old, and really inefficient, and they had earned their AARP cards, and it was time for them to get off the playing field and go enjoy a nice retirement somewhere," said Alison Silverstein, who wrote the DOE's "Staff Report on Electricity Markets and Reliability."
The only blue state that appears in Comstock's top ten is Illinois, where natural gas also seems to have played a lead role. Illinois almost doubled its emissions from natural gas, but because natural gas burns more cleanly than coal, it still reduced its overall CO2 emissions from the power sector by almost 15 million metric tons.
Illinois also saw the largest reduction in industrial coal use. About 5 percent of the coal burned in Illinois goes to industrial plants, which also appear to be converting to cheaper natural gas.
The other leading reducers of coal emissions were Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia.
Nationwide, emissions from coal rose in only four states—Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, and New Mexico. Another three states—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont—and the District of Columbia use no coal or almost none. Nationwide decreases in coal emissions were only partly offset by increases in emissions from natural gas, despite a 20 percent increase in the use of natural gas.
"Although natural gas generation increased, the CO2 emissions associated with that natural gas consumption were not enough to offset the decrease in coal-related CO2 emissions in 2015," Comstock writes. "Coal-related CO2 emissions across all sectors decreased 231 million metric tons from 2014 levels, and natural gas-related CO2 emissions across all sectors increased 43 million metric tons."
Texas had the most to give, being the largest CO2-emitting state by far. Texas emitted 642 million metric tons of CO2 in 2014, vastly surpassing the runner-up, California, at 358. Almost all the coal burned in Texas—98 percent—is used for electricity generation.

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