New York Times
America isn’t making electricity the way it did two decades ago. Now the future of the nation’s energy mix has become a major election issue.
Overall, fossil fuels still dominate electricity generation in the United States. But the shift from coal to gas and renewable technologies has helped to lower carbon dioxide emissions and other pollution.
Last year, natural gas was the largest source of electricity in 20 states, while wind emerged as a leader in Iowa and Kansas. Coal remained the primary power source in 15 states – about half as many as two decades ago.
The decline of coal has largely been driven by market forces. Mr. Trump pushed to weaken regulations on industry, but more coal power plants closed during his first term than in the last four years of Barack Obama’s presidency, as utilities found it more economical to switch to cheaper natural gas and, increasingly, renewable power.
“We’re going to continue to see coal plants retire,” said Kate Konschnik, who heads the climate and energy program at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. “The big question now is whether those plants get replaced with gas or cleaner energy.”
Natural gas has come out on top in recent years, but clean technologies like wind turbines, solar panels and batteries have fallen so far in price that they are now often the cheapest option available. Concerns over climate change have prompted many states to envision a shift away from gas, which, although cleaner than coal, is a major source of planet-warming emissions like carbon dioxide and methane.