U.S. coal exports have surged since President Donald Trump took office, according to a Tuesday report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
U.S. coal exports to other countries for the first quarter of 2017 were 58 percent higher than in the same quarter of 2016, according to the EIA report. Most of the coal is sold to European or Asian markets, where demand is rapidly rising.
U.S. coal production fell by 18 percent in 2016 when compared to the previous year, but changing market conditions suggest that a comeback is on the way, according to a previous EIA report published in February.
Coal power has been in decline for years, due to strict regulations and market conditions that favored natural gas power.
However, the coal industry is somewhat optimistic about its chances of recovery. Trump has repeatedly pledged to save coal by rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations.
Coal power provided about 33 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S. in 2015, according to data from the EIA. Natural gas provided another 33 percent, while nuclear generated 20 percent. That same year, wind and solar power only accounted for 4.7 and 0.6 percent, respectively, of electricity generation.
Even though coal is still a major part of the U.S. power grid, there are 83,000 fewer coal jobs and 400 fewer coal mines than when former President Barack Obama was elected in 2008. A 2015 study found that the coal industry lost 50,000 jobs from 2008 to 2012 during Obama’s first term.
As a result, many ex-coal miners are unemployed and Appalachian “coal country” faces very real economic devastation.
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