Analysts Expect US Coal Exports To Continue Surging In 2018

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

U.S. coal exports are expected to surge 10 percent in the next year, according to new forecasts by the Energy Department’s statistics arm.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that while coal production will fall one percent in 2018, exports will surge 10 percent above 2017. Coal exports were up 32 percent in the first half of 2018 compared to the same time the previous year.

It’s good news for President Donald Trump, who promised to help get coal country back on its feet during the 2016 campaign. Coal is part of Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda.

During Trump’s first year in office, coal exports surged 61 percent, largely thanks to demand in Asia where economic growth increased the amount of coal countries needed to fuel their economies.

Now, it looks like Asian growth will cause U.S. coal exports to further increase. (RELATED: Jerry Brown’s Plan For ‘Negative’ CO2 Emissions Is Based On ‘Science Fiction’)

“Three of the top five destinations for U.S. coal exports are in Asia, with India, South Korea, and Japan accounting for more than one-third of U.S. exports through March,” EIA reported Tuesday.

EIA’s newest energy outlook nearly doubled estimated coal exports in 2018 estimates issued in August on expectations demand in Asia would “remain strong” in the coming years. EIA expects exports to fall slightly in 2019, but still be above 2017 levels.

In August, EIA estimated coal exports would grow 5.7 percent in 2018, which has now been revised upward to 10 percent growth next year.

Obviously, there are larger global trends at work when it comes to coal exports, which experts say make it hard to attribute Trump administration policies to booming exports.

Critics have gone after Trump for giving false hope to coal mining communities with promises of bringing back coal jobs.

“Trump’s false promise that he can bring back coal is really exposed as so much coal dust and mirrors by this executive order, since utilities will continue to use natural gas instead of coal,” former Clinton administration official Paul Bledsoe told The Washington Post last year.

The Post’s fact-checker gave Trump three out of four Pinocchios for “trying to take credit for things outside his control” when it came to surging coal exports.

However, the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted the “mood in the coal industry in the United States brightened in 2017,” and that Trump’s policies “provided optimism” to an industry in decline.

The Trump administration has rolled back Obama-era regulations on mining and power plants that Republicans and coal country saw as part of the “war on coal.”

Most recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a proposal to weaken the Clean Power Plan that put limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The rule was expected to force more coal plants to prematurely retire.

“The so-called Clean Power Plan. Doesn’t that sound nice?” Trump said at an August rally in West Virginia. ““We’ve got the cleanest country in the planet right now. There is nobody cleaner than us and it’s getting better and better.”

“We are putting our great coal miners back to work!” Trump said.

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