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U.S. Coal Exports Soar To 1991 Heights

America's reliance on coal to produce electricity has declined by more than 20 percent in recent years — but in 2011, the U.S. exported coal at a rate not seen in 20 years, according to the AP. And much of the new surge in coal exports comes from Asia and Europe.

Here's a rough guide to who's buying America's coal, based on the AP story:

  • South Korea: Up 81 percent to more than 10 million tons.
  • India: Up 65 percent, to 4.5 million tons.
  • Japan: Up 119 percent, to almost 7 million tons.

The surge in Japan's need for coal is seen as a result of its difficulties with its nuclear and electrical grid following last year's earthquake and tsunami.

On the Gregor.us site, energy analyst Gregor Macdonald says Europe also has a large appetite for U.S. coal, with the Netherlands, Britain and Italy leading the way. To keep an eye on coal production, you can always refer to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Quarterly Coal Report.

Other top destinations for American coal were China and Brazil.

The news of the spike in coal exports comes one week after a senior mining industry official said that America's coal sector was at risk of being shot dead by newly proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

"The Navy SEALs shot Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and Lisa Jackson shot us in Washington," said United Mine Workers of America president Cecil Roberts, speaking about EPA administrator Lisa Jackson's plans in an interview on a West Virginia radio show.

Roberts was speaking out against proposed rules to regulate coal ash — a move that has brought a wide range of responses from environmental groups, state government agencies, and industry associations.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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