U.S. coal imports
Although the United States produces a large amount of coal (about 728 million short tons in 2016), some power plants along the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Ocean sometimes find it cheaper to import coal from other countries than to obtain coal from U.S. coal-producing regions. In 2016, the United States consumed about 729 million short tons of coal. The United States imported 9.8 million short tons of coal in 2016, 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 reached a record high of 126 million short tons. U.S. exports of coal have declined each year since 2012 and were about 60 million short tons in 2016, 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.