Lee Buchsbaum writes that U.S. coal producers increasingly find it more profitable to export their product:

With the falling dollar, selling to Asia, Europe or South America is giving coal producers a higher return than selling into the United States. "If I were running a coal company and I looked at what’s happening on Capitol Hill and the states, I’d be very inclined to send my marketing team overseas," said Michael Morris, AEP chairman, president and CEO. "That’s where it appears the growth market is going to be, not here domestically."

In 2007, the United States exported almost 60 million tons of coal. This year, many expect that figure to be between 80 and 90 million tons. Estimates for 2009 are even higher at 100 million tons. Through June of this year, producers sent 40.4 million tons overseas, up 57 percent from 2007.

In particular, note this:

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Utah, Colorado and PRB coals are also traveling further and, recently, are being shipped in increasing amounts to the West Coast for deep-pocketed Asian customers.

As Ted Nace points out (via email), much of the Western coal in question is mined on leased public land. The federal coal leasing program rents out that land at $3 an acre with a royalty of "12% of the gross value of the coal produced."

To translate that to English: American taxpayers are subsidizing coal being sent to China to be burnt in dirty coal plants and fry the planet.

There’s plenty of legitimate debate over how best to mitigate climate change, but surely everyone can agree on this initial strategy: stop subsidizing it.

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