US Coal Exports and Imports

The U.S. coal export and import markets are relatively small (see Figure 2-10), and the export market has been on a decline for many years, as illustrated in Figure 2-19 [12]. In 2002, the United States exported approximately 40 million short tons, which was nearly evenly divided between metallurgical coal and steam coal. Although this market has been declining, the EIA projects no further erosion in coal exports [12].

The United States has become only a marginal supplier in the international coal trade, particularly in the steam coal market. Canada has been the largest market for U.S. steam coal, accounting for two-thirds of the exported steam coal [12]. Europe, which traditionally had been a mainstay for U.S. steam coal exports, has been importing less coal from the United States and has contributed to the significant decrease observed in Figure 2-19.

FIGURE 2-19. U.S. coal imports and exports. (From Freme, F., U.S. Coal Supply and Demand: 2002 Review, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C., 2002.)

Italy, Portugal, and the Netherlands all saw large decreases in imported U.S. coal [12].

As with steam coal, Canada has been the major market for U.S. metallurgical coal in 2002, accounting for nearly 22% of all metallurgical coal exports. Exports to other countries are mainly on a decline, including those to Brazil (the second largest market), Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Luxembourg. In Europe, only Spain increased imports of U.S. metallurgical coal. The Asian market (i.e., Japan and Korea), which had been importing several million short tons of U.S. metallurgical coal, vanished in 2002 as this market now imports their coal from other countries, primarily Australia [12]. The loss of the Asian markets was due to increased competition and the costs associated with transporting U.S. metallurgical coal, which is mainly mined in the eastern United States, over such long distances.

The United States imports only a small amount of coal, relative to total U.S. coal consumption; less than 20 million short tons were imported out of over one billion short tons consumed. Colombia dominates the U.S. import market, accounting for approximately 55% of all coal imported in 2002, followed by Venezuela (3.3 million short tons) and Canada [12].

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