Washington, D.C. — Rising exports of U.S. coal to growing global markets have paid strong dividends throughout the economy, with an even greater potential to boost growth and job creation as port facilities are expanded. In congressional testimony this morning, National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn documented this claim with new data from an Ernst & Young study confirming the widespread economic benefits from record-setting U.S. coal exports in 2012.
The report found coal exports last year supported 168,430 jobs in a wide range of industries – from mines and railroads to ports and ancillary businesses in a dozen states. Coal export facilities in Virginia, Louisiana, Maryland and Alabama alone generated $5.5 billion in economic activity while supporting more than 45,000 jobs paying an average annual wage exceeding $96,000. For every million tons of the 125 million tons of coal exported in 2012, said Quinn, the industry added 1,320 high-wage jobs to the economy.
“The $16.6 billion that coal exports contributed to the U.S. economy last year was the only net addition to the nation’s trade balance from the energy sector,” Quinn told the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power.
U.S. coal also helps satisfy the hunger of both developing and developed countries for affordable, reliable electricity and the raw material needed to make steel. Global demand for coal is rising, powered by rapid development in Asia and growing demand in advanced economies, presenting enormous opportunities for the U.S. with its world-leading coal supplies. Advisors to the International Energy Agency estimate that almost 400 million people will need access to electricity to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2015, a major reason why the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts coal will remain the world’s dominate fuel source through 2035.
Responding to increasing global demand will pay further dividends to the U.S. as well, said Quinn. “The planned U.S. port expansions on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes would support a more than doubling of coal exports once again, creating at least another 168,000 high-wage jobs here in the U.S.”
“The trend of a growing seaborne coal market is clear,” said Quinn, “and the U.S. has the most of what the rest of the world needs.” The issue, he cautioned, is whether policymakers will enable the U.S. to seize its advantage or cede it to other coal-exporting countries.
The process for reviewing coal export projects should address legitimate concerns, said Quinn, but not serve as an excuse to trap projects in a limbo of duplicative, unpredictable and endless review without a decision point. “We should not confuse the length of the process with the rigor of review,” said Quinn, echoing President Obama’s warning that the U.S. must not sit on the sidelines as other nations move ahead and lose the chance to create jobs on our shores.