US Coal Exports and Uncertainty in Asian Markets

Photo by Daniel Dancer, used with permission.

Photo by Daniel Dancer, used with permission.

With US demand for coal plummeting, coal companies are looking to Asia to shore up sagging sales at home. Since 2011, several groups have launched ambitious plans to mine low-grade coal from Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and transport it by rail to ports in Oregon and Washington, where it will be shipped to overseas markets—particularly China. At full capacity, the proposed projects would send 140 million tons annually.

The coal industry claims that Asia offers lucrative coal markets. Yet much of the available evidence is cautionary at best. Sightline’s memo, “US Coal Exports and Uncertainty in Asian Markets,” explores reasons why Asia’s major coal markets have high uncertainty, and US exporters will face stiff competition from other nations.

US Coal Exports and Uncertainty in Asian Markets

Published: October 3, 2012