US Coal Exports at Highest Level in Twenty Years

For the full year of 2011, the US exported 107,259 thousand short tons of coal. This was the highest level of coal exports since 1991. More impressive: exports recorded a more than 25% leap compared to the previous year, 2010. (see data here, opens to PDF).  Additionally, this was also a dramatic breakout in volume from the previous decade, which ranged from 40,000 – 80,000 thousand short tons per annum.  The below chart, from EIA Washington, does not capture the full year, though it certainly portrays the trend. Nota bene: this chart tracks the quarterly volumes of coal exports:

In an early 2010 post, Can the US Significantly Increase its Export of Coal?, I wondered whether a weaker US economy, partially kicked off oil, would have to source more of its energy from coal—thus putting a cap on any increase in coal exports. Or, whether the same economy, transitioning in part to more natural-gas-fired power generation, would possibly find a way to free up more coal for export. We may now have our answer.

–Gregor