Rock On! Coal Exports Supports 141,270 Jobs

May 24, 2013

Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg.

Trade supports jobs. It’s not just a slogan and the name of an info-packed website; it’s a fact. In the case of coal, a new study by accounting firm Ernst and Young found that exports support tens of thousands of jobs and contribute billions of dollars to the economy.

The report prepared for the National Mining Association found that in 2011 (the most-recent year with complete data available) 18% (25,130) of the jobs in the American coal mining industry were supported by coal exports. Coal exports produced $2.6 billion in labor income and $5.4 billion in economic activity.

The report looks beyond the coal industry. By broadening the analysis to economic activity "generated by purchases from domestic suppliers" and spending from employees in the coal, transportation, exports, and supplier industries, Ernst and Young found that coal exports “contributed 141,270 total direct, indirect, and induced jobs to the U.S. economy” and $16.6 billion to the economy in 2011.

Other highlights from the study include:

  • Coal exports supported 8,850 transportation jobs. Most of these were due to moving coal from mines to ports.
  • Coal exports supported 5,370 jobs at ports.
  • Jobs directly supported by coal export-related industries (mining, transportation, port operations) earned almost 50% more in wages and benefits.

Given this evidence of the economic benefits of selling coal to foreign markets, what do opponents of new export facilities in the Pacific Northwest do? They asked the Army Corps of Engineers to combine a number of environmental studies being done on proposed export facilities and broaden their scope to include possible environmental effects in neighboring states and wherever exported coal would be sold—the entire planet. It's a stall tactic. Chip Yost at Shopfloor put it well, “Their message was clear, we don’t want you to do anything that involves fossil fuels.”

Opponents continue to allow their anti-energy ideology to get in the way of the facts. Coal exports support tens of thousands of jobs and add considerable value to the economy. We should embrace our energy abundance, not stop ourselves from using it wisely.

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