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Prospects for Coal in Electric Power and Industry


Coal has been the fuel most used for thermal energy since the early days of the Industrial Revolution. However, the mechanization of factories quickly brought a shift in coal use from heat to steam engines, and then to fuel steam turbines to power the electric motors of industry. The advent of electrical lighting and the electrification of buildings and residences drove even greater demand for electricity. For most of the twentieth century, the primary use of coal in the United States was for electric power generation. In 2011, 93% of coal consumed in the United States was for electric power production, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Figure 1 shows the use of the four major types of coal produced in the United States, with bituminous and subbituminous coal dominating electric power generation.


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