U.S. coal imports
Although the United States produces a large amount of coal, about 997 million short tons in 2014, 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 2014, the United States consumed nearly 917 million short tons of coal. Of this amount of coal, about 1% (11 million short tons) was imported, 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. Exports of coal declined to about 118 million short tons in 2013 and to 97 million short tons in 2014.
Metallurgical coal and steam coal are two general types of coal that are exported. Metallurgical coal can be used for steel production, and steam coal can be used for electricity generation. Metallurgical coal dominates U.S. coal exports.