The U.S. Mountain States are moving away from coal, even as President-elect Donald Trump vows to revive the embattled industry.
Western states — a stronghold for coal consumption — are increasingly using natural gas and renewable energy for their electricity. The switch puts pressure on miners in Wyoming, the country's biggest coal-producing state, and tilts the playing field against Trump's plans.
The president-elect's promise to put miners back to work was already a tall order — the International Energy Agency says the embattled U.S. industry must close more mines in the coming years before it can return to health. Trump also wants to increase natural gas production, but energy analysts say that would eat into coal's market share even more than it already has.
While Wyoming miners have faced layoffs recently, the state has been something of a bulwark. Its vast deposits of easily accessible, low-sulfur coal have kept the mountain region running on the fossil fuel. Nearly half of the region's power generation in 2015 was coal-fired, while the national average was 33 percent, according to analysis by the Energy Information Administration.
But even that swath of the United States is not immune to the market forces that have chipped away at coal. A decade ago, coal provided 63 percent of its power.
On the one hand, Wyoming has closed fewer coal-fired plants than other states, including West Virginia and Kentucky, because its facilities are relatively new and more efficient. New air-quality regulations have quickened the retirement of old and inefficient plants in parts of the United States.