Low domestic demand has renewed the focus on U.S. exports, which are on track for a record-setting third straight year of more than 100 million tons.
The 28-nation EU imported 47.2 million tons of U.S. coal last year, up from 13.6 million tons in 2003.
Exports to the U.K. alone are up tenfold in the same period. The U.S. ranked second only to Russia in supplying Europe with coal last year, and the U.S. could further increase its market share if recent political tensions with Moscow disrupt Russian shipments.
Germany's decision to phase out of nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has also made it a significant buyer of U.S. coal, mostly because the commodity is so inexpensive. Since 2003, German imports of U.S. coal have risen to more than 15 million tons from under a million tons.
EU officials are aware of the rise in high-sulfur Illinois Basin coal imports and are concerned. Many EU countries are in violation of the bloc's emissions rules, and 19 have been subject to formal complaints from the European Commission. (WSJ, 5/5/2014)