SHERIDAN — U.S. coal exports have made steady inroads into Asian markets since 2007, according to figures released last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Almost all exported coal to Asia went to the world’s top four coal importers: China, Japan, India and South Korea. The continent’s share of total U.S. coal exports increased from 2 percent in 2007 to 25 percent in 2012.
Despite that growth, U.S. coal provided less than 4 percent of Asia’s total coal imports in 2012 and less than 1 percent of total coal consumed by the four large Asian imports.
According to the EIA, several forces in the U.S. coal supply chain — both producers and railways — have contributed to the growth in exports. The trend is due in large part to rising Asian coal demand, overall strong export prices and lower U.S. consumption of coal to produce electricity.
Additionally, occasional factors such as supply disruptions in other coal-exporting countries such as Australia have provided temporary boosts to U.S. exports.
The planners behind several proposed shipping terminals in the Pacific Northwest hope to construct the infrastructure necessary to increase exports even further, but concerns about environmental impacts and the potential harming of landowners and their ability to earn a living through professions such as ranching and farming have caused concerns among citizens and lawmakers in recent months.