Is Coal Or Natural Gas Cheaper?

To create the same amount of electricity, natural gas emits about half as much CO2 as coal. It also produces a lot less pollution that is harmful to human health. Natural gas from the country’s fracking sector has contributed to a significant drop in the usage of coal to generate energy in the United States.

What is the most cost-effective energy source?

And there’s some good news for the environment: solar and wind power are now the cheapest forms of energy at the scale that a big utility will deploy them. They are slightly less expensive than natural gas-fired power plants and significantly less expensive than coal and nuclear power plants.

Why is natural gas a better fuel than coal?

When natural gas is burned for energy, it produces fewer air pollutants and carbon dioxide (CO2) than when coal or petroleum products are burned to produce the same amount of energy. Natural gas emits about 117 pounds of CO2 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), compared to more than 200 pounds per MMBtu from coal and more than 160 pounds per MMBtu from distillate fuel oil. Natural gas’s clean-burning attributes have contributed to greater natural gas use in the United States for electricity generation and as a transportation fuel for fleet cars.

Is coal more expensive than other fuels?

It’s common knowledge that sustainable energy has gotten a lot of attention in the last decade. What is less well-known is the rate at which coal plants are shutting down. Coal facilities around the country are closing their doors as renewable energy options such as wind and solar grow more economical and accessible, causing coal to lose traction as the country’s cheapest type of energy.

According to a report published by Energy Innovation Policy and Technology, maintaining existing coal facilities in the United States will be more expensive than replacing them with new wind and solar projects by 2020. The same analysis found that this is true for five of Nebraska’s seven current plants, with four of them operating at a cost that is 29 percent or higher than new wind.

This shift is influenced by a few main factors:

  • Renewable energy is gaining traction and becoming significantly less expensive. Wind and solar technology have advanced dramatically in the last decade, leading in enhanced efficiency that appeals to both energy investors and communities. As demand has grown, so has supply, lowering the cost of the parts and hardware needed to build and operate wind turbines and solar panels. According to research conducted by Our World in Data, the cost of solar electricity has decreased by 89 percent in ten years, while the cost of onshore wind has decreased by 70 percent.
  • Coal plants that are more than a decade old are costly to maintain. The inefficiency of ageing coal plants put a considerable pressure on the company’s finances. The older they get, the higher the costs of operations and upkeep become. Many businesses are being compelled to boost their energy bills or shut down totally in order to stay in business. Since 2012, 158 coal facilities in the United States have been shut, according to the Coal Cost Crossover 2.0 report by Energy Innovation Policy and Technology.
  • Several coal-fired power facilities are in debt. Many of the coal facilities that aren’t closing face a new challenge: debt owed by the local co-ops that operate them. As a result, funds that could be utilised to improve the efficiency of these facilities or instal emission-control equipment are instead being used to pay off old debts.

Our utility officials must make informed decisions about the continued usage of coal and other fossil fuels as the pricing war turns in favour of renewables. You can get more information about this topic by downloading. The Transition to a Clean Energy Economy: Rural Electrification 2.0

Is it true that coal is more harmful than gas?

Both Republicans and Democrats are proposing modifications to the so-called energy independence measure that would heavily subsidise the coal sector in order to generate liquid coal as a substitute for foreign oil. (The original measure, which is well-intentioned, aims to improve fuel efficiency in vehicles and light trucks, promote biofuel production, and provide funding for the development of technologies to collect carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.)

Senator Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat from New Mexico, resisted large coal-based fuel subsidies until mid-June, when he sought to grant up to $10 billion in loans for coal-to-liquid projects. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, who represents a coal-rich state, quickly altered his support for subsidising coal-derived gasoline production to focus on another bill he was sponsoring to reduce glasshouse gas emissions and carbon content in transportation fuel.

Bingaman’s and Obama’s shifting attitudes highlight the conflict between efforts to lessen reliance on foreign energy while still slowing global warming. When coal is transformed into transportation fuel, liquid coal is generated, which does little to slow climate change and is twice as hazardous as gasoline in terms of creating glasshouse gases that blanket the earth and cause warming.

Liquid coal can power regular diesel automobiles and trucks, as well as jet engines and ships, thanks to well-established conversion technology (the Germans utilised it during WWII). Executives in the coal sector believe that if oil prices rise to $50 a barrel or more, coal will be able to compete with gasoline. However, liquid coal has significant environmental and economic drawbacks. On the environmental front, coal’s polluting properties, which begin with mining and continue long after it is burned, combined with the large amount of energy required to liquefy it, result in liquid coal emitting more than twice the global warming emissions of regular gasoline and nearly double those of regular diesel. Driving a Prius on liquid coal is as dirty as driving a Hummer on conventional fuel, according to pundits.

Only two barrels of fuel are produced from one tonne of coal. In addition to the carbon dioxide released during the use of the fuel, the manufacturing process produces about a tonne of carbon dioxide for every barrel of liquid fuel. To put it another way, one tonne of coal produces more than two tonnes of carbon dioxide. Proponents of coal-to-liquid facilities in Congress and the industry claim that the same technologies that could one day capture and store emissions from coal-fired plants will be available to coal-to-liquid plants. Even if the carbon produced during production could be caught and sequestered (a technology that has yet to be verified on a large scale), According to some research, liquid coal would still emit 4 to 8% more global warming emissions than ordinary gasoline.

Liquid coal is likewise a poor investment. Legislators from coal-producing states are proposing that taxpayers guarantee billions of dollars in production plant construction loans, set minimum prices for the new fuel, and guarantee large government purchases for the next 25 years. Coal-based fuels, they argue, are more American than gasoline. However, there are no operational coal-to-liquid plants in the United States, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers estimate that building enough units to replace 10% of American gasoline consumption will cost $70 billion. Some energy experts are concerned that the size of the incentives would lead to a replay of the failed attempt to fund a synthetic fuels sector 30 years ago.

To lock in a technology that creates more glasshouse gases than gasoline, the country would invest billions in loans, tax incentives, and price guarantees. This is unacceptable at a time when prominent scientists from around the world are warning that glasshouse gas emissions must be reduced by at least 60% over the next half-century if the worst effects of global warming are to be avoided. Rather of paying billions to subsidise a massively polluting business, we should invest in efficiency and renewable energy technology that can help us limit global warming now.

What is the most environmentally friendly fossil fuel?

The majority of the energy in the United States comes from the combustion of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are not only a nonrenewable resource, but they also harm the ecosystem and contribute to global warming. It is critical that the United States reduces its reliance on fossil fuels and shifts to renewable energy sources. Natural gas is a major source of energy in the United States (Figure 1, EIA, 2008) and is used in a variety of industries (Figure 2, data from EIA, 2008).

The Marcellus Shale holds 50 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, enough to supply the United States for two years at present consumption rates1.

Comparison of Emissions for Fuel Sources

Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel in terms of emissions from power plants. The emissions of numerous stack gases for natural gas, oil, and coal are compared using data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) branch of the Department of Energy (DOE). Natural gas does not emit considerable amounts of nitrogen oxides or sulphur dioxide, in addition to reducing CO2 emissions.

Leaks of methane (CH4) from natural gas pipelines, on the other hand, could be a significant source of glasshouse gas emissions. Because methane contributes more to climate change per pound than CO2, even tiny methane leaks could cause natural gas to contribute more to climate change than coal. According to a 1997 research by the EPA and GRI, natural gas’s lower CO2 emissions outweigh any glasshouse gas emissions from methane leaks2. It’s uncertain whether these figures still apply to contemporary gas output, but in 1997, natural gas leaks were estimated to account for 19-21 percent of anthropocentric methane emissions in the United States3. Before making precise comparisons between the climate change effects of natural gas and other fossil fuels, more conclusive research is required.

Water withdraws

For cooling plant equipment, power plants require enormous amounts of clean freshwater. Power generation in the Susquehanna Valley, Pennsylvania, consumes 150 million gallons of water every day. In this area, the projected peak water demand for shale gas drilling is only 8.5 million gallons per day. 4

Probability of failure

The American Petroleum Institute looked into the possibility of injected fluids contaminating subsurface drinking water sources in the 1980s (USDW). The likelihood of failure, assuming acceptable well casing design, was calculated to be between 2 x 10-5 and 2 x 10-8. The probability that a well will damage a USDW is predicted to be even smaller than 2 x 10-8 due to new developments in well construction technology and taking injection conditions into account. Failure of the lined fracking liquids containment ponds is another possible source of contamination of USDWs. The chances of failure are projected to be increased, but this is unknown.

Other Environmental Concerns

In general, natural gas extraction and combustion are more environmentally beneficial than coal. While other fossil fuels can be more harmful and destructive, natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing has far more negative environmental repercussions.

Water Pollution

Coal mining and combustion contribute significantly to water contamination. Permitting restrictions under the Clean Air Act require coal-fired power stations to remove dangerous substances from flue gas. Scrubbers, which take flue gas and extract contaminants into water, are used to remove these compounds. The water is treated in the power plants, and the operators are granted a discharge permit under the Clean Water Act to discharge it into a local stream. Arsenic, aluminium, boron, chromium, manganese, nickel, and lead are all common pollutants found in power plant waste water. Many dangerous contaminants discovered in power plant waste water effluent emissions are not controlled or are only regulated in certain specific circumstances, according to a New York Times study of EPA records. In addition to the sporadic regulation of contaminants in wastewater, the provisions of the discharge permit have been demonstrated to be laxly enforced. Many cases of arsenic entering streams at amounts surpassing 18 times the federal drinking water standard, for example, were discovered by the Times research. 6

Acid Rain

Unlike natural gas, coal and oil emissions can create acid rain, which occurs when sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react with hydroxyl radicals in the atmosphere to form acid rain.

Acid Mine Drainage

The drainage from current and retired coal mines, known as Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), is another impact of coal mining and extraction on regional water quality. AMD is the most frequent non-point source pollutant in the Mid Atlantic region. When pyrite combines with air and water to produce sulfuric acid and dissolved iron, AMD is generated. This can result in red, yellow, or orange silt in streambeds, as well as the dissolution of other heavy metals, which are then released into surface and groundwater systems. AMD has harmed about 4,000 kilometres of waterways in the Mid Atlantic region. AMD has also killed fish and other aquatic species, as well as contaminated drinking water supplies. 7

Mountaintop Removal

West Virginia, Mountaintop Removal, and Coal Strip Mining Blaine O’Neill 2010 photo

In the United States, mountaintop coal mining has recently increased. This method entails clearing mountains of trees and topsoil, then using explosives to obtain access to coal buried beneath. Mountaintop clearance affects large swaths of deciduous woodland, increasing runoff and destroying habitat. Headwaters can be buried, aquatic habitats are harmed, and downstream water becomes extremely contaminated when valleys are filled with debris created by mountaintop removal. Organisms, ecological function, and human health are all threatened by this water pollution. 8


M.R. Harrison, T.M. Shires, J.K. Wessels, and R.M. Cowgill. 2. Harrison, M.R., T.M. Shires, J.K. Wessels, and R.M. Cowgill. 1997. Emissions of Methane from the Natural Gas Industry National Risk Management Research Laboratory of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

3. Kirchgessner, D.A., R.A. Lott, R.M. Cowgill, M.R. Harrison, T.M. Shires, R.A. Lott, R.M. Cowgill, R.M. Cowgill, R.M. Cowgill, R.M. Cowgill, R.M. Cowgill, Estimated methane emissions from the natural gas industry in the United States. Pages 1365-1390 in Chemosphere, Volume 35, Issue 6, September 1997.

“Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer,” United States Department of Energy (DOE). April of that year. Dept Energy Report Shale Gas Primer 2009.pdf

ibid. 4.

6. Charles Duhigg, “Cleaning the Air at the Cost of Waterways.” The New York Times published an article on the 12th of October, 2009. The Energy Information Administration published this report in 2008. Energy Review for the Year.

M.A. Palmer, E.S. Bernhardt, W.H. Schlesinger, K.N. Eshleman, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, M.Sc. Hendryx, A.D. Lemly, G.E. Likens, O.L. Loucks, M.E. Power, P.S. White, and P.R. Wilcock are among the authors of this paper. Science 327: 148-149, 2010. Mountaintop Mining Consequences.

What is the most cost-effective renewable energy?

Eventually, any discussion on energy resources will turn to the subject of money. Finances influence practically every decision we make, including those that are made for the greater benefit.

In 2018, the cost of renewable energy hit a new low. Solar and wind power are now among the most cost-effective renewable energy sources in the world, and analysts predict that these prices will remain low for many years to come.

Despite recent technological advancements in the field of energy resources, most of us are unsure of the expenses involved. We’ll look at the cheapest and most expensive renewable energy sources, and then compare the expenses of each.

What is the most expensive renewable energy source?

This is a contentious issue, and there are two options: solar and tidal. Previously, the expense of technology and inefficiency drove up the price of solar. This cost will decrease as the efficiency and convenience of installation improve, but it is still the most expensive. However, it’s worth mentioning that solar today has an average cost per kWh of roughly $0.10, and fossil fuel expenditures range from $0.05 to $0.17 per kWh1.

In terms of installation expenses, tidal energy is unquestionably the most expensive, but proponents claim that maintenance costs are extremely low. It’s difficult to say which is the most expensive because tidal is relatively unpopular, despite its excellent reliability, because plants must be built on beaches.

What is the cheapest renewable energy source?

Hydroelectric power is now the most affordable renewable energy source, with an average cost of $0.05 per kilowatt-hour2. Because the infrastructure has been in place for a long time and it delivers electricity continuously, hydroelectric power is the most cost-effective.

It’s also worth mentioning that wind power is currently available for $0.04 to $0.06 per kWh, making it the most cost-effective option in some places.

Comparing the cost of renewable energy

The Levelized Cost of Energy, or LCOE, is the simplest and most efficient approach to quantify and compare the costs of renewables.

We can use this technique to compare the costs of finance, construction, operation, and maintenance of a power plant. Each energy source’s value will be given in USD per megawatt-hour.

Onshore wind energy: In comparison to the second half of 2019, the price of onshore wind energy has reduced nearly 10% to $44 per megawatt-hour, and has shown fast growth since 2010.

Offshore wind power: According to Bloomberg Green, the global LCOE for offshore wind is now expected to be $78 per megawatt-hour3. New offshore wind projects in the Netherlands and Denmark are estimated to cost $53-64 per megawatt-hour, excluding transmission costs.

Solar photovoltaics: Since 2019, the cost of solar energy has reduced by 4% to $50 per megawatt-hour. Figures like these are common, and in nations like America, China, and Brazil, they are even lower. In an effort to tackle climate change, equipment costs have decreased, renewable technologies have advanced, and governments throughout the world have pushed for net-zero targets.

CSP (concentrated solar power) is the most expensive renewable energy source, costing an average of $182 per megawatt-hour4. Despite its high price, it can compete with fossil fuels in particular situations because it is more reliable than other renewables. CSP is expected to become more affordable over the next decade or two, thanks to new storage methods and extensive research.

Hydropower: In recent years, this renewable resource has provided electricity at a lower cost than fossil fuels. Between 2010 and 2018, the global weighted-average levelized cost of hydropower electricity was equal to or lower than the cheapest fossil fuel-fired option in all but two years. As a result, between 2010 and 2018, the majority of hydropower used was less expensive than the cheapest fossil fuel option.

Geothermal energy: A little more than 500 MW of additional geothermal energy producing capacity was added two years ago. Geothermal energy can be a productive and cost-effective source of round-the-clock power if there are reliable, high-temperature resources. The global LCOE of new geothermal facilities was $72 per megawatt/hour in 2018, down 1% from the previous year5. Although this resource is more expensive than wind energy, it may prove to be a good investment in the long run. The performance of geothermal wells and continued investment in producing well maintenance will determine lifetime capacity factors.

Bioenergy: The global-weighted average price of electricity in 2018 was $62 per megawatt-hour. Because of a shift in energy deployment towards less capital-intensive solutions, this figure was 14 percent lower than the previous year. Bioenergy capacity in any country is determined by the availability of feedstocks, which can be strongly influenced by whether these feedstocks are seasonal or available all year.

Is renewable energy getting cheaper? Why?

Because demand is growing, the price of renewable energy is falling. This increasing demand sets off a chain reaction in which demand rises, corporations can offer it for less, which pushes up demand even more, and so on.

There’s much to be said for research as well. Governments, corporations, and industries are more willing to invest in a relatively new energy source when outcomes, numbers, and facts become accessible. This concept makes sense, and it explains why fossil fuels have been so widely used in the past: no one wants to invest in a new technology that hasn’t yet proven itself.

In addition, there is the financial aspect of energy resources to consider. While environmental sustainability is the key element that attracts consumers to renewables, corporations and governments are drawn in by the money. Renewables will be seen as a worthwhile investment if a government believes that its country will flourish financially over the next few decades.

Is renewable energy cheaper than nonrenewable energy?

When we divide the prices of renewable energy into three categories: capital, fuel, and operations & maintenance, we may see some significant disparities. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy may not be inexpensive at first. Nonetheless, they do not require fuel once installed, and they usually have cheaper operation and maintenance costs.

When comparing the overall costs of different energy sources, we must take into account when, where, and how often we can use each one. Wind and solar electricity may now compete with fossil fuels while providing a slew of important health and environmental benefits, but they’re still sporadic and unreliable.

As a result, wind and solar power are unlikely to completely replace nonrenewables. While this may appear discouraging, utility firms and power operators are discovering new methods to add value to the power system by incorporating renewables.