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Energy Consumption from Renewables could soon beat that of Coal in the United States

According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the transition to green energy is headed in the right direction in the U.S. In 2020, there are high chances that energy consumption from renewables was higher than that from Coal. That doesn’t come as a surprise since the decrease in coal carloads was also massive. As a matter of fact, it registered a drop of almost 25%.

Renewables, including biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric power, has contributed significantly to the national power grid in 2020. For instance, in the first nine months, its contribution was 8.73 quadrillion Btu. The contribution of Coal at that particular period was 6.85 quadrillion Btu hence lower than that of the renewables.

That marks the second consecutive year that the energy consumption from renewables has outpaced that from Coal. However, the gap in 2019 was almost negligible, unlike in the case of 2020, when the margin was quite significant. In 2020, renewables and coal contributions were 11.332 quadrillions Btu and 11.326 quadrillions Btu, respectively. However, despite the margin being small, it was a milestone in the U.S. clean energy transition. After all, it is something that hadn’t happened since 1885. In addition to that, it was a significant improvement from 2018 when Coal contributed 15%, and renewables only offered 1%.

The change is a result of policies supporting renewables and others against Coal. Consequently, power generation from renewable sources has improved, whereas that of Coal has declined. Coal carloads keep decreasing each passing year. In 2020, the number stood at 3.07 million, which was a drop of 24.6%, according to AAR. Some particular carloads increased, whereas others dropped. Gainers were iron & sheet scrap, chemical, and grain, rising by 12.9%, 3.7%, and 27.9%, respectively. The numbers for the U.S. carloads and grain carloads were 11.48 million and 1.19 million.

The U.S. intermodal traffic has also been decreasing over time. The highest loss was in the second quarter as a result of the coronavirus global pandemic. Nevertheless, the involved parties may have recovered the loss through gains during the third and fourth quarters. The number of trailers and containers was almost 13.68 million, which was a decrease of 1.8%. The combination of the intermodal units and carloads was a decrease of 7.2% from the previous year. Its actual number was 26.16 million.

By the end of last year, the total increase of U.S. carload and intermodal volume from the same time in 2019 was 4.4%. The total number of intermodal units and carloads was 2.44 million. In December, coal carloads registered a drop of 14.5%. Petroleum and its products decreased by 15.8%, and that of gravel, sand, and crushed stone was 14.8%.

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