US Coal Production & Demand to Continue Long-Term Losses


Cleveland, OH, October 27, 2021 — Coal production in the US is forecast to decline 1.8% yearly in volume terms through 2025, according to Coal: United States, a report recently released by Freedonia Focus Reports. Natural gas is expected to continue capturing share from coal in the electricity generation market, restraining coal demand and, by extension, production. Natural gas overtook coal in the electricity generation market for the first time in 2016. Going forward, stiff competition from renewable sources of energy will also restrain advances in output. Declines in production compared to trends over the historical period will be more tempered by gains in overall energy consumption and electricity generation as well as by the repeal of the Clean Power Plan. Expanding export opportunities, particularly in the Middle East and in the developing economies of Asia, are projected to stave off further losses. In 2021, production is expected to see gains from 2020 levels as demand ramps up in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic slowdowns.

US demand for coal is forecast to decrease 1.1% annually in volume terms through 2025. Losses will be driven by continued shifts to alternative energy sources. Over the historical period, constraints on coal demand included competition from natural gas and renewables, as well as stringent environmental regulations. Operators of coal-fired plants have resisted clean coal technologies and less environmentally harmful ranks of coal, due to the associated higher operating costs. In addition, public support for clean coal has been restrained by its cold reception among environmental groups. Environmentalists fear clean-coal does not sufficiently ameliorate the damaging aspects of coal emissions to warrant the “clean” moniker. Furthermore, the technology is economically unattractive and often ineffective. The retrofitting or replacement of coal-burning plants with natural gas or biomass-powered technologies has further limited the domestic consumption of coal, as the conversion of existing facilities can be less expensive than installing and maintaining the emissions control systems necessary to comply with environmental regulations.

These and other key insights are featured in Coal: United States. This report forecasts to 2021 and 2025 US coal production and demand in short tons. Total production is segmented by rank in terms of:

  • sub-bituminous
  • bituminous
  • lignite and anthracite

Total demand is segmented by market as follows:

  • electric power
  • commercial, industrial, and other markets

To illustrate historical trends, total production, total demand, the various segments, and trade are provided in annual series from 2010 to 2020.

Charcoal production and demand are excluded from the scope of this report, as charcoal is a product that can be made from wood, peat, coal, or other materials in a separate production process. Throughout this report, measures in tons refer to short tons. Re-exports of coal are excluded from demand and trade figures.

More information about the report is available at: