Thanks to the shale boom, US coal exports reached an all-time high last March. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) credits increased Asian demand—Chinese demand, in particular—with the uptick, but the broader explanation involves shale energy and Europe’s green policies.
The shale boom is displacing coal in America: coal is cheap, but the US glut of natural gas extracted from shale is often cheaper. Because of this, American coal producers are increasingly looking to market their product abroad. While China is the largest single destination for US coal exports (the country consumes nearly half of the world’s coal), the continent of Europe takes the lion share of the dirty energy source. Indeed, Europe imports more coal from the US than the rest of the world combined.
As you might expect, misguided green policies are largely to blame. Europe’s greens have been slow to embrace shale, but its solar and wind farms can’t power anything when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. And with many nuclear plants shuttered in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, the continent has no option but to turn to fossil fuels. American coal is cheaper than Russian gas, so Europe imports coal, a fossil fuel that burns much dirtier.
America is decreasing its emissions by embracing shale, while it took an economic disaster for Europe to curb its own greenhouse gas contributions. Green energy policy has been a catastrophic failure in Europe, hampering the continent’s global competitiveness without making the continent any greener.