U.S. power plants to burn less coal in 2009

- U.S. power plants will burn 2.6 percent less coal in 2009 than they did last year as the recession trims electricity generation and plants turn to cheaper natural gas, the country's top energy forecaster said.

Power plants will burn about 1,014.9 million tons of coal in 2009, down from 1,041.6 million tons burned in 2008, the Energy Information Administration said in its monthly short-term outlook.

It was the second month running that the EIA pushed down its forecast for the 2009 coal burn. In March, the EIA forecast power plants would burn 1.7 percent less coal in 2009, down from 1.2 percent less in the February forecast.

Power demand in 2009 is also expected to slip on a milder summer. Air conditioning demand during the summer is expected to be about 5 percent lower than last summer, the EIA forecast.

"The reduced need for air conditioning combined with the impact of the recession on electricity sales, especially in the industrial sector, are expected to reduce total electricity consumption by 1.6 percent in 2009," the EIA forecast said.

Total 2009 U.S. consumption of coal, the fuel that emits more of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than any other, will be 1,080.6 million tons, down from 1,123.7 million tons burned last year, the EIA said. That was down about 1.2 percentage points from the March forecast. Coal is also used in industry such as making metals.


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