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Coal exports from Pennsylvania have bright future, CEO says

April 23, 2018 GMT

Coal exports have played an increasingly important role in the industry in both Pennsylvania and in the nation. While many coal plants have closed, the demand overseas has increased and in some ways offset the loss in energy production from that sector domestically.

George Dethlefsen, CEO of Corsa Coal Corp., based out of Pittsburgh and operating in Somerset County, acknowledged as much.

“I think the future for Pennsylvania coal exports is bright,” Dethlefsen said. “Low cost thermal coal and high quality metallurgical coal has a growing place in the world economy and both products are produced here in Pennsylvania.”

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Fourth-quarter 2017 U.S. coal exports increased 14.5 percent from third-quarter 2017, according to figures released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in April. Annually, the coal industry contributes $4.5 billion to the state’s economy, according to the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance. More than 36,000 people are employed in coal-related fields.

Corsa Coal does not export any coal to China, because its focus is in metallurgical coal and the demand for that type is not great in China. The civil strife situation in Ukraine has also reportedly increased the demand for coal exports. Dethlefsen said the main steel producer in Ukraine has assets in West Virginia where they get their metallurgical coal. He said, however, that more thermal coal has started moving to Ukraine.

President Donald Trump recently imposed a 10 percent tariff on aluminum and a 25 percent tariff on imported steel. Canada and Mexico were exempt from the tariffs. While some in the county, including many in the farming community, oppose the tariffs because of a fear of a trade war in which their products will have less demand, Dethlefsen said he is in favor of them.

“The free market capitalist in me would ordinarily raise an eyebrow at tariffs; however, we are dealing with a global economy that already taxes U.S. exports regularly. The United States is the largest consumer and source of demand in the world.

“In a global trade setting, you get what your leaders are capable of negotiating, and we are very well-positioned to negotiate a better deal and reduce the trade deficit. This should benefit American industry — especially here at home in Pennsylvania and the industrial Midwest.”