THE DECLINE OF THE COAL INDUSTRY
The US coal production peaked in 2008 at 1172 million short tons. Between 2008 and 2015, total coal production declined sharply to 897 million short tons, a decline of 23%. In this period, surface coal production declined by 28% whereas underground coal production by 14%.
Simultaneously, natural gas production dramatically increased by 51%.2 The decline of coal production can be explained by changing market dynamics and federal regulatory environment.
Historically, key factors underlying the transformation of US coal industry include: i) growing mechanization of coal mining; ii) the Clean Air Act of 1990 that adversely impacted the demand for Appalachian coal in favor of low-sulfur Western coal; iii) the shale gas revolution resulting in dramatic fall in natural gas