Oct. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. coal production in the first half of the year is slightly lower than last year, but remains a significant source for electricity, the government said.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported total U.S. coal production during the first half of the year was slightly lower than the same time last year, but higher than the first half 2016. The EIA's report said declines in 2017 were driven in part by lower demand for steam coal, which accounted for 90 percent of total U.S. production and serves as the main component for coal-fired electricity generation.
"In recent years, coal has lost part of its electricity generation share to other fuels, but it still accounted for 30 percent of the U.S. electricity generation mix in the first half of 2017 compared with natural gas and renewables [including hydro] at 31 percent and 20 percent, respectively," the report read.
Scott Pruitt, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said last week the government would repeal former President Barack Obama's landmark Clean Power Plan. Though never enforced, and contentious for some state planners, the measure aimed to cut 32 percent of the carbon emissions from the nation's power sector.
The repeal was part of a broader effort by U.S. President Donald Trump to back the coal industry in fulfillment of campaign promises. Pruitt in May said the so-called war on coal was over and the fossil fuel was one that offered a pro-environment and pro-growth option for the largest economy in the world
Trump's administration has said coal offers a layer of security to the nation's grid against the growth in renewable energy, which can be seen at times as an intermittent source of power.
Trump and his energy secretary, Rick Perry, have lined up behind coal and nuclear supplies as "fuel-secure" resources for the nation's power grid. That effort has been met with criticism from unusual allies.
Testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in early October, Marty Durbin, the chief strategy officer for the American Petroleum Institute, said grid reliability is linked to different attributes for generation, not fuel sources alone. While leaning in favor of natural gas as a clean alternative, Durbin said the nation's grid is supported by its flexibility.