Monthly U.S. coal exports, January 1980 - March 2013. Graphic: U.S. Energy Information Administration

By Carmel Lobello
27 June 2013

(The Week) – In a speech on Tuesday, President Obama laid out a plan for reducing carbon emissions, directing the EPA to add new carbon limitations for coal plants that are already active — a move that opponents are likening to a "war on coal."

Coal, the largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S., accounts for about 40 percent of the nation's energy and about 86,000 jobs. "The impact [of targeting coal] could be economic havoc," Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association, which represents the coal industry, told CNNMoney.

But accusing Obama of trying to choke out the industry doesn't tell the whole story. As you can see in this graph from Real Clear Energy, Obama hasn't exactly been an anti-coal president, at least in terms of exports. The U.S. was exporting 60 million short tons of coal when he took office in 2009. By 2012, exports had doubled to 120 million short tons.

Though coal production was slightly higher during George W. Bush's presidency, exports were lower.

That said, all of the credit for the U.S.'s recent coal boom doesn't go to the Obama administration — some goes to Fukushima. Following Japan's 2011 earthquake, the country shut down its 50 nuclear plants and started importing more coal to help make up for the loss. So did Germany, which opposes fracking for natural gas. [more]

Coal exports have doubled during Obama's so-called 'war on coal'



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