U.S. coal imports
Although the United States produces a large amount of coal (about 895 million short tons in 2015), some power plants along the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Ocean sometimes find it less costly to import coal from other countries than it is to obtain coal from U.S. coal-producing regions. In 2015, the United States consumed nearly 802 million short tons of coal. The United States imported about 11 million short tons of coal in 2015, mostly from South America.
U.S. coal exports
The United States is a net exporter of coal, meaning that it exports more coal to other countries than it imports. Between 2000 and 2010, about 5% of the coal produced in the United States, on average, was exported to other countries. In 2012, 12% of U.S. coal production was exported, and coal exports rose to a record high of 126 million short tons. U.S. exports of coal declined to about 74 million short tons in 2015, equal to about 8% of U.S. coal production.
The United States exports metallurgical coal and steam coal. Metallurgical coal can be used for steel production, and steam coal can be used for electricity generation. Metallurgical coal dominates U.S. coal exports.