Nov 10, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Coal exports rebound thanks to rising gas prices

U.S. coal exports
Data: U.S. Energy Information Administration; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Coal is experiencing a mini U.S. rebound thanks to higher prices for natural gas domestically and in key global markets.

Driving the news: U.S. coal exports are 29% higher this year, the Energy Information Administration said in its monthly outlook Tuesday.

  • "Higher U.S. exports reflect rising global demand for coal amid high natural gas prices," EIA said.
  • Coal consumption in the U.S. power sector is slated to be 18% higher this year than 2020, also reflecting higher gas prices.

Yes, but: EIA notes coal-fired power has not increased as much in response to gas prices as in the past, due to lower supplies.

The big picture: Coal, the most CO2-intensive fuel, once provided over half of U.S. power but has bled market share to gas and renewables over the last decade.

  • It fell to 20% of total U.S. generation last year but is reviving to 23% this year, per EIA.
  • White House climate policy is aimed at fully decarbonizing the power sector by 2035.
  • But turning that into reality likely rests on major incentives and investments Democrats are struggling to move through Congress.
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