Domestic coal consumption is continuing to shrink in the U.S., where a combination of low natural gas prices, tightening environmental regulations and the falling price of renewable energy generation are pushing utilities away from conventional coal plants.
As a result, coal producers in the U.S. are looking abroad to find willing buyers.
Coal represents a mere fraction of U.S. energy exports, currently around five percent. Nonetheless, skyrocketing exports constitute a noteworthy trend.
In 2005, the U.S. exported 50 million short tons of coal, while in 2012 it exported 126 million short tons. Half of U.S. coal exports go to Europe, 26 percent are sent to Asia and around 10 percent go to North and South America each.
In Washington, conservative leaders have once again renewed their push to loosen fossil fuel export regulations. Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) representing a major coal-producing state, called Thursday for President Obama to allow more natural gas, coal and oil to be shipped abroad.
Sen. Barrasso and his allies have seemingly spent little time considering the environmental consequences of extracting and exporting even more dirty fossil fuels, instead preferring to emphasize the job-creation benefits of expanding the energy sector.