King Coal is meeting its match: natural gas. Power plants fired by natural gas have set a new record by producing as much electricity in the United States as those run by coal, long the nation’s dominant power producer.
Preliminary data for April show that natural gas plants generated the same share of U.S. electricity as coal ones — 32% — for the first time since the U.S. Energy Information Administration began keeping records decades ago. EIA is the statistical arm of the Department of Energy.
« Natural gas prices as delivered to power plants were at a ten-year low » in April, the EIA said this week in disclosing the data, which it said may change. Another factor, as the agency reported last month, is coal’s continuing decline in output — 19% between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012.
While coal faces its own challenges, natural gas has boomed because of a drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or « fracking, » in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to fracture shale layers and release the gas.
Encore une fois, en refusant d’exploiter son gaz de schiste, le Québec passe à côté d’une opportunité extraordinaire. En plus, brûler du gaz naturel au lieu du charbon pour produire de l’électricité, c’est bon pour l’environnement !