Electricity output, coal shipments drop

So far this year, U.S. power generation and coal shipments are down compared with the same period in 2011, according to weekly reports from the Edison Electric Institute and the American Association of Railroads.

U.S. power output is down 5.4 percent and the volume of coal transported by rail is down 7 percent, according to the reports.

Sharply lower natural gas prices, strict new emission standards for coal-fired power plants and plunging electricity prices are forcing power producers to shut down old coal-fired units in favor of cleaner-burning gas-fired generation.

Coal’s share of power generation in the U.S. is at its lowest level since 1979, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

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