Coal Production By State

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Learn to love the struggle — if you can’t enjoy the pains of programming, you’re going to face all the more difficulties when you advance to complex problems.

— Joe Previte on learning to program. His statement is true for most other difficult human activities as well. I have heard military folks say that you must "embrace the suck," which is said in a similar spirit.

Figure 1: Wyoming Dominates US Coal Production.

Figure 1: Wyoming Dominates US Coal Production.

I have been listening to politicians discussing US energy policy the last few days. Very few facts were presented during these discussions, but one politician did casually mentioned that Wyoming produces more coal than the next six states combined. I did not know that Wyoming was such a dominating coal producer, and I began to look at how to fact check this statement. Fortunately, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has all the data readily available from this web page.

I downloaded the US coal production data from the EIA web page, processed it using Power Query, and created Table 1. I was able to confirm that Wyoming's coal production exceeds the total output of the next six largest coal coal producing states. For those who are interested, here is my Excel workbook.

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6 Responses to Coal Production By State

  1. Dear Mark: Thank you for this relevant information - and your useful Excel spreadsheet. I note that in 2001, the relationship was still almost true. Wyoming produced 369M Million tons of coal, while the six states listed produced 491M Million tons of coal. This inspires further calculations regarding the huge amount of carbon dioxide produced via the combustion of this coal, using the simplification that the coal is assumed to be pure elemental carbon. The stoichiometry is C + O2 = CO2. C = 12, O2 = 32 and CO2 = 44 grams/mole. That is to say, every tonne of carbon yields 3.66 tonnes of CO2. (1 tonne = 1,000 kilograms = 2,204.6 pounds = 1.1023 short tons)

    This is not an idle exercise, as there is a proposal for Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to abandon an emission-free, safe and highly-functioning nuclear power plant in 2025, Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP), near where I live. In researching the more than 1,000 pages of written testimony, workpapers, and transcripts in California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) application A.16-08-006 that the nonprofit that I provide pro-bono assistance to, our organization became aware of a "dirty secret" - namely the massive amount of out-of-state coal that is burned to provide electric power for the residents and businesses of California. Here is a recently-updated report regarding the importation of coal-fired electricity into California from the California Energy Commission:

  2. Part 2A of 3
    The United States has been described as the "Saudi Arabia of Coal" as a consequence of its abundant coal reserves. Thus, U.S. coal production is coupled to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in any nation that burns U.S. - sourced coal. The common measurement unit for carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution is millions of metric tons (MMT.) Employing the above conversion factors yields the information that U.S. coal production contributed 3,891 MMT CO2 in 2008, the year of highest production in 2001-2015. Furthermore, U.S. coal production contributed 2,978 MMT CO2 in 2015, the year of lowest production. Clearly, this is a significant annual amount of CO2 pollution. Summing these totals for those 15 years yields a dismal 53,695 MMT CO2. Note also Hansen and Kharecha's 2013 paper that connects coal combustion to increased premature mortality, mostly of the very young and very old. "Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power," Pushker A. Kharecha* and James E. Hansen, Environmental Science and Technology, March 15, 2013, Their calculated mean value for coal-fired generation was 28.67 deaths/TWh, where 1 TWh = 1,000 GWh.

    Per page 2 of 8 of the above California Energy Commission report shows that California imported 19,353 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity in 2014. California optimistically projects zero coal-fired power imported as of 2025. By that date, the massive Intermountain coal-fired plant in Delta, Utah is to convert to a combined-cycle natural gas plant, which is allegedly "cleaner." As the unprecedented natural gas (methane) leak at Aliso Canyon Storage Field from October, 2015 through February, 2016 illustrated, there is significant AGW associated with methane leakage in the steps from methane extraction through methane combustion.

  3. Part 2B of 3
    Californians for Green Nuclear Power, Inc. (CGNP) is the nonprofit educational corporation that is focused on keeping DCPP open past 2025. CGNP's website is at CGNP dot org. While all of CGNP's A.16-08-006 CPUC filings are available at both the CGNP website and via the PG&E regulatory website, the most important filing to date is CGNP's Opening Brief, a summary of CGNP's testimony and responses to the other parties that was filed late in the proceeding. The URL is
    CGNP's previous written testimony and their Opening Brief discuss how Portland, Oregon-based PacifiCorp, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, plans to replace a large part of DCPP's emission-free production of 18,000 GWh/year with its excess production of fossil-fired electricity from its approximately 6,000 MW of coal-fired electric production (some from its Wyoming power plants, which connects with the above Math Encounters Blog disclosures) and its 3,000 MW of natural gas-fired generation. Thus, if this harmful PG&E proposal is implemented, California ratepayers are looking at billions of dollars more in annual energy costs, coupled with significantly higher emissions to exacerbate AGW. It is for these reasons that CGNP opposes the harmful PG&E proposal.

    While the 18,000 GWh of DCPP's emission-free electricity production may be difficult to conceptualize, CGNP notes that this power production is about five times the annual production of Hoover Dam. Keeping DCPP running past 2025 would be a meaningful way to continue the reductions in CO2 emissions that are coupled to reduced annual U.S. coal production.


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