Coal-fired power falls record 18% to lowest level since 1975

The industry saw multiple bankruptcy filings in 2019

Coal-fired power generation fell by 18 percent in 2019, hitting its lowest level since 1975, according to preliminary estimates released by Rhodium Group analysts Tuesday.

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That decline helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions traced to the power sector by almost 10 percent compared to 2018, according to Rhodium Group.

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Net U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 across all sectors were down from 2018, but up compared to 2016. Rhodium Group attributed the increase in emissions to stronger economic growth compared to 2016.

The country's fourth-largest coal producer Murray Energy filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2019, joining Blackjewel Mining in West Virginia and Cloud Peak Energy in Wyoming.

Coal power has been under the microscope for years as presidential candidates from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders have vowed to target the coal industry.

Stacks from the Colstrip coal-fired power plant east of Billings, MT can produce up to 2,094 megawatts of electricity. (William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images)

In December, three Democratic senators requested the Government Accountability Office look into a $1-billion-a-year subsidy for burning chemically treated refined coal, which may not cut pollution after all.

Before he declared his 2020 presidential run, billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced he would donate $500 million to close all of the nation's coal plants by 2030. The Beyond Carbon initiative was created to bypass the federal government and work with states and utilities to "phase out every last U.S. coal-fired power plant by 2030."

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