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Coal exports soared in the first six months of this year, but federal energy officials still expect an overall decline in the nation's coal production.
Short-Term Energy Outlook released Sept. 11, the Energy Information Administration said the U.S. exported 32 percent more coal in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period a year ago. And it noted that June was the second month of this year to see exports exceed 10 million short tons (MMst).
"EIA forecasts total coal exports to be 107 MMst in 2018 and 101 MMst in 2019, with U.S. coal exports to Asia expected to remain strong," the report said. "Three of the top five destinations for U.S. coal exports are in Asia, with India, South Korea, and Japan accounting for more than one-third of U.S. exports through March, the most recent month for which EIA has actual data."
While exports are vibrant, coal's picture at home isn't as upbeat, which led EIA to forecast a 1 percent drop in domestic coal production this year, to 768 MMst.
"The production decrease is largely attributable to a forecast decline of 2 percent (17 MMst) in domestic coal consumption in 2018. EIA expects coal production to decline by 2 percent (12 MMst) in 2019, because coal exports and coal consumption are both forecast to decrease," the report said.
Coal was responsible for 30 percent of America's electricity generation last year, but EIA sees that averaging 28 percent this year and 27 percent next year.
At the same time, natural gas-fired plants will see their share go from 32 percent in 2017 to 34 percent this year and 35 percent in 2019.
Meanwhile, don't look for much relief at the filling station.
A gallon of regular averaged $2.84 in August, down from May's high of $2.90. But through the end of the year, the lowest EIA sees it going is $2.72 in December. And for all of 2018, regular should average $2.76, up 34 cents from 2017.