BP says natural gas overtakes coal as dominant US power source for the first time ever

Jessica Morris
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BP said that coal clocked its largest fall on record (Source: Getty)

The world's largest economy burned more natural gas than coal for the first time ever last year.

It coincides with a spate of bankruptcies within the embattled US coal industry, with embattled coal producers Peabody, Arch Coal, Patriot and Alpha Natural Resources all filing for bankruptcy in the last year.

Spencer Dale, former Bank of England MPC member and chief economist for BP, reportedly said: "You can go back as long as you want in history, coal had always been the dominant source of fuel in US power, until last year."

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He was addressing business leaders at a presentation of the oil giant's annual statistical review, according to energy business website fuelfix.com which first reported the news.

The US coal industry has been decimated by the shift towards gas-fired power generation, as well as the growth in renewables. Data from by the US Energy Information Administration showed quarterly coal production across the country fell to its lowest since the early 1980s.

It comes amid the world's increasing commitment to renewable energy sources, embodied by the UN-led COP 21 meetings in Paris last year and the historic agreement to tackle climate change. Slower global economic growth, particular in China, has also played a part.

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BP said that coal clocked its largest fall on record, taking its share within primary energy to its lowest level since 2005. This came as technological gains supported strong growth in oil, natural gas and renewables.

"The combination of slow demand growth and a shift in the fuel mix away from coal towards natural gas and renewable energy had important implications for carbon emissions," according to the annual statistical review.

"In particular, carbon emissions from energy consumption are estimated to have been essentially flat in 2015, the lowest growth in emissions in nearly a quarter of a century, other than in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis."

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