The New York Times is reporting that coal use is one the rise in the United States. Coal use jumped 9% percent in 2007 and 10% more in the first eight months of 2008.
Though a common source of heat for Americans over the decades, using coal for residential heating has declined over the decades, going out of vogue because of its mess and impracticality.
In 2006, coal sales hit a record low after long periods of decline, and is now experiencing a comeback after highly volatile oil prices and a dip in consumer spending and investor confidence.
In this economy, Americans are finding that coal, because it is cheap, readily available and mined in America, may be a better option than home heating oil and natural gas, which are vulnerable to price fluctuations.
Coal is much cheaper in areas where it is mined, and make more economic sense than in areas where the transportation costs lead to hefty markups.
The Energy Information Administration reports that, on average, a ton of coal has about as much heat potential as 146 gallons of heating oil or 20,00 cubic feet of natural gas. A ton of high grade coal in Pennsylvania costs about $120, compared to $480 for the equivalent amount of natural gas.
In addition to its uses as a home heating fuel, coal is the largest source of electricity for the United States and the world. Coal is also the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the world. As a greenhouse gas, the emission of carbon dioxide contribute to global climate change. It emits approximately twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas, a main alternative in the residential home heating fuel market.