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Renewable Energy Surges, But Fossil Fuel Still Powers Most of Economy

  • Jim Randle

FILE - A wind turbine farm owned by PacifiCorp near Glenrock, Wyoming, cranks out electricity, May 6, 2013.

Renewables are a fast-growing part of the energy that powers the United States, but a government report shows fossil fuels still provide energy for most of the economy.

The Energy Information Administration says petroleum, natural gas, and coal provided 81 percent of the energy for the world's largest economy in 2016.

FILE - A mining truck hauls coal at Cloud Peak Energy's Spring Creek strip mine near Decker, Mont. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe challenged the Trump administration decision to life a moratorium on coal leases.
FILE - A mining truck hauls coal at Cloud Peak Energy's Spring Creek strip mine near Decker, Mont. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe challenged the Trump administration decision to life a moratorium on coal leases.

That is lowest rate of U.S. fossil fuel use in a century, and the change is partly due to a major fall in coal usage to generate electricity. In many cases, coal has been replaced by less-polluting natural gas or zero-emission technologies like solar and wind generation.

FILE - Solar panels that are part of the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association's community gardens are shown in Rockford, Minn., Feb. 26, 2015.
FILE - Solar panels that are part of the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association's community gardens are shown in Rockford, Minn., Feb. 26, 2015.

An earlier EIA report says renewable energy sources account for most of the new electric generating capacity, with perhaps 24 gigawatts added in the United States during 2016.

In the meantime, markets are pondering efforts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to limit output and boost prices. The oil price is down around 14 percent this year due to output from the United States, Nigeria, Libya and some other nations.

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