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Coal Prices Are Breaking Records, But Production Is Dropping

MountaineerCoal.JPG
David Adkins
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Conveyer belts and heavy machinery near AEP's Mountaineer Power Plant in Mason County, West Virginia.

Coal production is up from last year, but dramatically higher prices are not translating to a similar increase in supply.

U.S. coal production is up six percent from the first quarter of 2021, according to federal data from the Energy Information Administration.

But most of that growth was in Western states.

West Virginia coal production was up 3.6 percent in the first three months of the year, while Appalachian coal production was down 1.2 percent.

Coal is bringing in record prices: $168 a ton for Central Appalachian coal, and $141 a ton for Northern Appalachian coal, more than double what they were a year ago. Illinois Basin coal is $190 a ton on the spot market, up from about $35.

Still, U.S. coal consumption fell four percent in the first quarter of 2022 from the first quarter of 2021. And exports of U.S. coal used to make electricity and steel both fell in the first quarter of 2022 from the fourth quarter of 2021.

Energy & Environment Reporter, ctate@wvpublic.org, 202-679-8470, @tatecurtis

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