As of 2015, it is not necessary to use coal to generate electricity, given the alternatives available; however, the United States is dependent upon coal as a fuel source. Coal generates 44 percent of the nation's electricity, and, according to NPR, is both inexpensive and efficient.
Although natural gas has emerged as a viable alternative to coal, there is no expectation that coal will be replaced as an energy source in the foreseeable future.
The immediate benefits of coal, regardless of its severe environmental impact, have made it a principal source of energy in many other countries too. In South Africa, coal is used to generate 93 percent of the nation's electricity, according to the World Coal website.