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The past decade has seen a worldwide resurgence of coal as an energy source. The United States has been a major beneficiary of rising world coal trade, first in the coking coal sector and in recent years in the steam coal sector. Within the United States, a tremendous change has occurred in regional coal development patterns within the past 10 years. In 1972, almost 85% of U.S. coal was produced east of the Mississippi River; in 1982, only about 67% of the U.S. coal was produced in the east. Eastern coal production increased only 8% in the decade, whereas coal production west of the Mississippi almost tripled. This shift in coal production away from the eastern U.S. was driven by the interplay between the utility companies' choices for compliance with the Clean Air Act an with the production and transportation economics of the two major coal producing regions. Consequently, significantly different developments have occurred in different coal fields within the eastern United States. This
paper reviews developments in coal consumption and production over the past 10 years, analyzes the causes of the changes, discusses policy options available for improvements in the economic conditions of eastern coal fields, and comments on differing prospects for individual eastern coal-producing areas in the decade to come.
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