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Higher Exports Can’t Save U.S. Coal from Declining Domestic Market

A short-term increase in exports can’t offset “bearish long-term fundamentals” for the U.S. coal industry, according to several speakers at a December 5 industry conference cited by Standard & Poor’s Global Market Intelligence.

“In the old days, the pie got larger and everyone’s piece got larger. But the pie is not getting larger, so load growth is really having a profound effect on the coal fleet,” acknowledged Paul Bailey, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, in a talk to the American Coal Council’s Coal Trading Conference. Bailey pointed to declining growth in demand for coal-generated power as one of several challenges facing the industry.

So even as the “export market for U.S. thermal coal continues to gain strength”, S&P notes, crashing domestic consumption will continue to hamper efforts to revive the industry.

Emily Medine, a principal with Energy Ventures Analysis, said U.S. thermal coal remains “challenged” by “a surplus of natural gas, lack of growth in power demand, wind production tax credits, a strong U.S. dollar, continued regulatory pressure, and public perception against coal,” S&P reported, in an analysis summarized by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.