World’s biggest coal producer needs more fuel.
China’s coal imports from the United States are rising despite record production of the country’s main fuel, experts say.
Although its coal output more than doubled in the past decade to over 3.5 billion tons, China has also become the world’s biggest coal buyer with imports of 182.4 million tons last year.
The United States had a small piece of that huge market with exports to China of 5.5 million tons in 2011, according to Department of Energy (DOE) data.
But China’s energy demand is driving predictions of greater growth for U.S. exports to come.
“Exports to China could reach over 12 million tons this year based on the annualized numbers,” the chief executive of Pennsylvania-based Xcoal Energy & Resources, Ernie Thrasher, told Reuters this month.
U.S. exports to China through February have already reached some 5 million tons, Reuters said.
While that’s a drop in the bucket compared with China’s massive consumption, the shipments are still remarkable, considering that U.S. coal comes halfway around the world.
Philip Andrews-Speed, an energy expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said China’s demand has drawn on increasingly distant resources since it became a net coal importer for the first time in 2009.
“It’s unusual, however we have seen in the last three years that China’s net imports of coal are growing, and they’re buying coal from whoever wishes to sell it,” Andrews-Speed told RFA.
“I don’t think China really cares where the coal comes from, as long as they get it at a reasonable price,” he said.