Coal mining in the United States

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Coal mining in the United States is a major industry, and reached an all-time high of 1.06 Gt (1.17 billion short tons) in 2008, being mined in 25 states. The U.S. was a net exporter of coal in 2008, with the surplus of exports over imports equalling 4% of the total mined.[1] In 2010, coal exports increased to 7.5% of coal produced in the U.S.[2] As of 2013, while domestic coal consumption for power production was being displaced by natural gas, production for export to Asia from strip mines utilizing thick deposits in the western United States in locations such as the Powder River Basin in northern Wyoming and Southern Montana was increasing.[3]

2010 coal production by region in short tons (US Energy Information Administration


Coal in the US (Mt)[4]
ProductionNet exportNet available

Coal mining has been roughly equal in volume (Mt) between 2005-2011 in the US. Coal available for own use as Mt was 91% in 2011 compred to 2005, which may reflect less coal dependancy in the energy supply. One should also notice that the specific net calorific value for coal in the US was 0.541 toe/tonne in 2011 and 0.632 toe/tonne in 2004/2005. This means that less energy rich mines are used than earlier. 2011/2005-ratio is 86%.

Coal mining areas[edit]

Twenty-six states produce coal.[5] The major coal-producing states are (in descending order as of 2000, with annual production in thousands of short tons):[6][7]

Total United States: 1,437,174

Coal export terminals[edit]

As of 2013, five coal export terminals were in the planning stages in the Pacific Northwest.[8] They were scheduled to be supplied by strip mines in the Powder River Basin. The export market is China and other Asian nations. Like the Keystone Pipeline the building of the terminals raise environmental concerns with respect to global warming.[9]

Coal usage[edit]

More than 90 percent of the annually-mined coal in the United States is used by the US electrical power industry.[10] Since 2000, the growth of coal-fired power generation has slowed considerably from what it was in the late 1990s.[11]

As of 2012 coal accounted for 37% of electricity production in the United States, down from 50% in 2005.[12] In 2006, there were 1,493 coal-powered generating units at electrical utilities across the US, with total nominal capacity of 335.8 GW[13] (compared to 1024 units at nominal capacity of 278 GW in 2000).[14] Actual power generated from coal in 2006 was 227.1 GW (1.991 trillion kilowatt-hours per year),[15] the highest in the world and still slightly ahead of China (1.95 trillion kilowatt-hours per year) at that time.[16] In 2000, US production of electricity from coal was 224.3 GW (1.966 trillion kilowatt-hours per year).[15] In 2006, the US consumed 1,026,636,000 short tons (931,349,000 metric tons) or 92.3% of coal mined for electricity generation.[17]

Energy value of coal[edit]

According to International Energy Agency (IEA) statistics, the energy value of coal in the United States in 2010 was only 85% compared to 2009. This change should be noticed in comparison of the national coal data as Mt or as TWh. Based on the big difference in the coal energy content it is recommended to confirm the table data from the official national statistics. Average annual changes in specific caloric values are small but do occur, e.g., Australia 0.689 (2009) and 0.614 (2008) and Russia 0.599 (2010) and 0.545 (2005). The lower the energy value, the more coal mining and fuel transportation is needed for the same energy quantity. New mining areas may also influence specific emissions such as sulphur emissions per TWh. According to the IEA, net calorific values of coal in the US were:[18]

(toe: tonnes oil equivalent)

Coal in the US [19]
Mtoe = 11.63 TWh
Confirm from the national statistics.


See also: Coal mining disasters in the United States


Concern about global warming in the US [20] - especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Al Gore's receipt of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his promotion of belief in climate change - temporarily increased public opposition to new coal-fired power plants.[21][22] Simultaneously with these events, the anti-coal movement - both in the U.S. and internationally, especially in the UK and Australia - had made coal-fired power projects more politically costly, and spurred further shifts in public opinion against coal-fired power and anti-coal campaigns.[23][24][25]

In a 2004 effort to counter this trend, many large coal mining companies, electric utilities, and railroads in the U.S. launched a high-profile marketing campaign aimed at convincing the American public that coal-fired power can be environmentally sustainable.[26][27][28] However, some environmentalists condemned this campaign as a "greenwashing" attempt to use environmentalist rhetoric to disguise what they call "the inherently environmentally unsustainable nature of coal-fired power generation".[29] For example, Australian environmental activist Tim Flannery asserts "Coal can't be clean".[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ F. Freme, "Coal review," Mining Engineering, May 2009, p.50-60.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Matthew Brown (March 17, 2013). "Company eyes coal on Montana's Crow reservation". The San Francisco Chronicle. Associated Press. Retrieved March 18, 2013. 
  4. ^ IEA Key World Energy Statistics 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2006 IEA coal production p. 15, electricity p. 25 and 27
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Coal Scorecard: Your Guide To Coal In The Northwest". EarthFix Oregon Public Broadcasting. June 28, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  9. ^ Phuong Le (March 25, 2013). "NW governors ask White House to exam coal exports". The San Francisco Chronicle. Associated Press. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ US Energy Information Administration: Net generation by energy source, accessed 24 January 2009.
  12. ^ Mario Parker (May 6, 2013). "King Coal Losing Crown as U.S. Gains Energy Independence". Bloomberg. Retrieved June 7, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States". Energy Information Administration. 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  14. ^ "Inventory of Electric Utility Power Plants in the United States 2000". Energy Information Administration. March, 2002. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  15. ^ a b "Electric Power Annual with data for 2006". Energy Information Administration. October 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  16. ^ See Wikipedia article on the Chinese Economy
  17. ^ "U.S. Coal Consumption by End-Use Sector". Energy Information Administration. July 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  18. ^ IEA Key World Energy Statistics 2011 p. 59, 2010, 2009, 2006 IEA October
  19. ^ IEA Key statistics
  20. ^ "Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy 2007 Environment Survey", Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy website, March 7, 2007.
  21. ^ "Iowans Want Energy Conservation Before New Coal Plants", Environment News Service, December 21, 2007.
  22. ^ "Kansans Support Decision to Nix Coal Plants, Want Focus on Wind Energy", Lawrence Journal-World, January 4, 2008.
  23. ^ Nace, Ted. "Stopping Coal In Its Tracks", Orion, January/February 2008.
  24. ^ "Fight Against Coal Plants Draws Diverse Partners", New York Times, October 20, 2007.
  25. ^ "You're Getting Warmer", East Bay Express, December 5, 2007.
  26. ^ "Coal Scores With Wager on Bush Belief", Washington Post, March 25, 2001.
  27. ^ "Spreading Misleading Messages", San Francisco Chronicle, November 3, 2004.
  28. ^ "Coal Industry Plugs Into the Campaign", Washington Post, January 18, 2008.
  29. ^ "Greenwash of the Week: Coal Industry Buys Off CNN debates", Rainforest Action Network Understory blog, January 23, 2008.
  30. ^ "Coal Can't Be Clean - Flannery", Melbourne Herald Sun, February 14, 2007.