WELZOW, GERMANY - AUGUST 10: Tourists visit a brown coal opencast mine at dusk in the Welzow open-pit lignite coal mine on August 10, 2013 near Welzow, Germany. The mine, operated by Vattenfall, is one of several in the immediate area that feed a nearby power plant with coal. In a development project initiated by state government, other nearby former open-pit mines have been turned into lakes in a rejuvenation effort that is also intended to make the area a viable tourist destination. National Journal

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Though conservative lawmakers and Democrats from coal-rich states have accused the administration of trying to stamp coal out of existence as an energy source in America, data released this week by the Energy Information Administration indicate that coal usage spiked in the first half of this year, Fuel Fix reports.

Although demand for coal still trails that of petroleum and natural gas, it nevertheless increased by 5.4 percent in the first eight months of 2013. In total, Americans used 12.1 quadrillion British thermal units of coal during that period.

Coal is often seen as a less desirable and more expensive source of energy than natural gas, which has become increasingly abundant because of advances in drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Still, natural gas prices increased at the beginning of the year, contributing to flat demand. 

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