Coal plants produce one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, which means that this fuel has a greater adverse impact on the environment than any other source. We have seen many countries, especially in Europe, reduce their use of coal in favor of cleaner energies in the recent years. However, the ongoing transition from fossil fuels was not helped by the current energy crisis, and with not enough infrastructure to meet the growing demand for power, many countries reverted back to using coal.
This can be seen in coal exports into Europe from the United States, which have grown by more than 40% to help ease the shortage of heating fuel as winter approaches.
The latest data from the Census Bureau shows that the overall value of coal exports to Europe from the U.S. has increased by some 184%. This has been attributed to an increase in both the price and volume of this particular fuel.
In the period between 2007–2015, Europe had imported over one-half of all coal exports from the U.S., based on value. By last year, this had dropped to 30% before surging to almost 44% this year.
Overall, exports of coal from the United States to the world have risen by less than 1% by weight. This is mainly because America’s exports to Asia have dipped by almost 24% by volume. Asia is the second-biggest market for the fuel by continent. By value, coal exports from America to the world have risen by roughly 98% this year, which is almost five times the increase in value of all exports from the country.
Prior to this, Europe mainly relied on Russia for natural gas, as it was seen as a cleaner source of energy in comparison to coal. In 2021, natural gas made up 83% of Europe’s imports, which indicates heavy reliance on the fuel. However, since Russia invaded Ukraine earlier in February, imports of natural gas decreased significantly after Russia halted exports from Gazprom in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU.
With its Russian supply cut off, Europe had to find alternative sources of energy. This meant that in addition to coal, the volume of imports of liquid natural gas to Europe from the U.S. had to increase significantly.
While most of the liquid natural gas exported from the United States is shipped out via Gulf seaports after being transported from Texas, most of America’s coal originates from Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Thus far, the Port of Virginia has shipped out more than 41% of outbound shipments to other regions of the world.
Given that the jump in exports was more in terms of earnings collected rather than an increase in export volumes, it follows that coal producers such as Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE: BTU) have enjoyed a good run on the market and are delivering great shareholder value at the moment.
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