President Obama may be cracking down on coal at home but he's spurred a big surge of exports abroad. The figure was only 60 million short tons when he took office in 2009 but has more than doubled to 120 million last year. Much of this growth has come in Asia - China, South Korea, Japan and India - which is now receiving a steady stream of Wyoming and Montana coal from the West Coast.
Of course he's had some help. Much of this demand has been spurred by efforts in Germany and Japan to shut down nuclear plants after Fukushima. Germany's "energiewende" has actually led to the construction of new coal plants as the Germans - who won't frack either - find natural gas too expensive.
Although U.S. imports are climbing, however, this should not create the impression that the industry is not hurting. The 120 million tons of coal we now export are still constiture only 10 percent of the billion tons we consumed in 2006. Consumption has now slipped below 900 million tons for the first time since 1996 so the increase in exports has made up only half the difference. The "War on Coal" is still having its impact.