With gas displacing so much coal generation in 2012, the headlines have painted 2012 as a bearish year for US coal. And, indeed, coal generation's US market share will decline to levels well below 40% and not seen in decades.
But low coal demand in the US is a unique story, authored by the amazingly low US natural gas prices. Around the world coal consumption booms, with coal providing a higher portion of the world's total energy than anytime in the last 40 years.
The global coal consumption boom creates opportunity for US coal companies to increase exports. And it is an opportunity not lost.
This year US coal exports will break a record set in 1981. www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=8490. Thirty-one years ago the US exported 113 million tons of coal, but EIA predicts the US will export 125 million tons this year, smashing the previous record.
Booming coal exports, combined with more than 2,200 megawatts of new coal plants coming on line, means that all the news is far from bad for the US coal industry during 2012.