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EIA Finally Sees Reality of Coal’s Decline, but Needs a Reality Check on How Quick It’s Happening

WASHINGTON - Today, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected a 28 percent increase in world energy use by 2040, predicting strong clean energy growth, but only a slight decline in global coal use - with an almost zero percent decline in coal use in the U.S. from 2015 to 2020. EIA has a long history of being slow to document clean energy’s rapid ascent as well as the pace of coal-fired power plant retirements. Last year, for example, EIA projected a strong increase in coal use in the coming decades and moderate growth for clean energy resources like solar, wind, and energy efficiency - yet outside study after outside study showed the opposite.

Many outside experts have predicted the global coal industry’s decline and clean energy’s growth more accurately, making today’s EIA release a “catch up” projection (though still inaccurate) as opposed to a new revelation. Energy experts continue to predict the exponential growth of the solar, wind, and energy efficiency use and a precipitous drop off in coal use as coal plants continue to retire around the world and countries get more serious about abating coal’s detrimental impact on public health and the climate.   

In response, Bruce Nilles, Senior Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, released the following statement:


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“EIA is finally recognizing coal use has peaked globally, but it still misses the tectonic coal to clean energy revolution happening here in the United States. Later this year we will celebrate a major milestone when half the US coal fleet that was operating in 2009 will have retired or be announced to retire.

“Coal will not slightly decline in the coming decades, it will fall off a cliff as communities, businesses, and governments all over the world get more serious about public health, climate change, and reducing electricity costs. It’s important to remember that coal is a 19th century technology designed to fix 19th century problems, and as we move deeper into the 21st century, it will be phased out for new technologies that meet our society’s demands of clean, flexible, and affordable energy - new technologies like wind, solar, and energy efficiency. We are long overdue for having this conversation and must continue concentrating on helping coal impacted workers and communities make an economic transition, instead of continuing to pretend that coal will be around for decades to come.”


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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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