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U.S. Coal Exports To Europe Soar Despite Energy Transition



November 3, 2023 - In the 12 months since the European Union sanctioned Russian coal in the third-quarter of 2022, U.S. coal exports to Europe have increased 22%, adding 5.7 million short tons (MMst) in a year, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). 

In a Thursday data release, the EIA said Europe received one-third of Russia’s total coal exports in 2021, totalling 84.6 MMst, prior to the invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions were implemented in April 2022, exempting pre-existing contracts, which expired in August 2022. The United States, South Africa and Colombia have primarily made up the gap in Russia coal coal exports to Europe since sanctions went into full effect, with the EIA noting that “as a swing, or higher-cost, supplier in the global steam coal markets, the United States was positioned to shift steam coal exports to Europe”. 

The U.S. has also increased coal exports to Asia and South America, while U.S. coal exports to Africa, Australia/Oceania and North America have declined. U.S. coal exports to the European Union are set to continue at pace, with Germany in early October approving a plan to put coal-fired power plants back online until the end of March 2024 in an effort to save natural gas this winter, Reuters reported. On November 1, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner publicly questioned the government’s goal of quitting coal by 2030. 

"Until it is clear that energy is available and affordable, we should end dreams of phasing out electricity from coal in 2030," Lindner said in an interview with the German daily Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, as reported by VOA. 

"Now is not the time to shut down power plants," he added.

Germany is hoping to produce 80% of its electricity from renewables by 2030.