United States coal exports have jumped more than 60% this year due to soaring demand from Europe and Asia, according to a Reuters review of government data, allowing President Donald Trump’s administration to claim that efforts to revive the battered industry are working.
The increased shipments came as the European Union and other US allies heaped criticism on the Trump administration for its rejection of the Paris Climate Accord, a deal agreed by nearly 200 countries to cut carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels like coal.
The previously unpublished figures by the US Energy Information Administration showed exports of the fuel from January through May totaled 36.79 million tons, up 60.3% from 22.94 million tons in the same period in 2016. While reflecting a bounce from 2016, the shipments remained well-below volumes recorded in equivalent periods the previous five years.
They included a surge to several European countries during the 2017 period, including a 175% increase in shipments to the United Kingdom, and a doubling to France which had suffered a series of nuclear power plant outages that required it and regional neighbours to rely more heavily on coal.
“If Europe wants to lecture Trump on climate then EU member states need transition plans to phase out polluting coal,” Laurence Watson, a data scientist working on coal at independent think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative in London, said.
Nicole Bockstaller, a spokeswoman at the EU Commission’s Energy and Climate Action department, said that the EU’s coal imports have generally been on a downward trend since 2006, albeit with seasonable variations like high demand during cold snaps in the winter.
Overall exports to European nations totaled 16 million tons in the first five months of this year, up from 10.5 million in the same period last year, according to the figures.
Exports to Asia meanwhile, totaled 12.3 million tons, compared to 6.2 million tons in the year-earlier period.
Trump had campaigned on a promise to “cancel” the Paris deal and sweep away Obama-era environmental regulations to help coalminers, whose output last year sank to the lowest level since 1978.
The industry has been battered for years by surging supplies of cheaper natural gas, brought on by better drilling technologies, and increased use of natural gas to fuel power
His administration has since sought to kill scores of pending regulations he said threatened industries like coal mining, and reversed a ban on new coal leasing on federal lands.
A spokesman for Peabody
Energy, the largest coal producer, though without a major export profile,
said the United States was
generally a “swing supplier of seaborne coal”.
U.S. Energy Information Administration analyst Elias Johnson said the US coal industry may now be better positioned to meet foreign demand because miners have learned to produce at lower cost, after coming through a series of recent bankruptcies. Reuters