As one of the biggest contributors to the globe’s greenhouse gas emissions, the United States has never prioritized renewable energy over fossil fuels and coal. However, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic (and decreasing costs of renewable energy processes and recent climate change efforts), the U.S. is projected to become more reliant on renewable energy than coal for the first time ever.
One New York Times article breaks this change down. New government projections show a transformation in energy reliance driven by many factors, including the coronavirus and recent climate change efforts. The recent change to a priority of renewable energy is quite the feat for the U.S.—especially given it is one of the biggest coal countries in the world and, ten years ago, coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity.
Like most environmental discussions, there are a number of reasons for this shift. Of course, the coronavirus has shut down the operation of many U.S. coal plants, but since 2010, many coal plants have retired from economic hardships.
However, renewable energy is both a survivor of the coronavirus pandemic (economically) and an increasingly affordable industry. The cost of building large wind farms has declined over 40 percent in the last 10 years, while solar costs have dropped more than 80 percent. The price of natural gas—a cleaner-burning alternative to coal—has fallen to historic lows as a result to the fracking boom.