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Executive Summary

Assuming no additional constraints on CO2 emissions, coal remains the largest source of electricity generation in the AEO2011 Reference case because of continued reliance on existing coal-fired plants. EIA projects few new central-station coal-fired power plants, however, beyond those already under construction or supported by clean coal incentives. Generation from coal increases by 25 percent from 2009 to 2035, largely as a result of increased use of existing capacity; however, its share of the total generation mix falls from 45 percent to 43 percent as a result of more rapid increases in generation from natural gas and renewables over the same period.[1]

Market Trends

U.S. coal production declined by 2.3 quadrillion Btu in 2009. In the AEO2011 Reference case, production does not return to its 2008 level until after 2025. Between 2008 and 2014 a potential recovery in coal production is kept in check by continued low natural gas prices and increased generation from renewables and nuclear capacity. After 2014, coal production grows at an average annual rate of 1.1 percent through 2035, with increases in coal use for electricity generation and for the production of synthetic liquids.[1]

Legislation & Regulations

In April 2010, the EPA issued a set of new guidelines to several of its regional offices for monitoring the compliance of surface coal mining operations in Appalachia with the provisions of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the National Environmental Policy Act, and the environmental justice Executive Order (E.O. 12898) [36]. The stated purpose of the guidance was to explain more fully the approach that the EPA will be following in permit reviews and to provide additional assurance that its regional offices use clear, consistent, and science-based standards in reviewing the permits. Although the new guidelines went into effect immediately, they were subjected to review both by the public and by the EPA's Science Advisory Board, with a set of final guidelines to be issued in the spring of 2011.[1]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 AEO Coal