CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While exports once helped buoy U.S. coal producers, exporters will face tough international markets for at least three to four years before prices rebound, one expert told a gathering of coal industry officials Thursday.
Ernie Thrasher, CEO of Pennsylvania-based exporting firm Xcoal Energy and Resources, spoke Thursday at the 42nd annual West Virginia Mining Symposium, sponsored by the West Virginia Coal Association and held at the Charleston Civic Center.
So dour was his forecast that at one point he took to referring to himself as “Dr. Doom.”
“We’ve got a lot of things working against us that we don’t have any influence on,” Thrasher said. “It’s going to be, in my view, around three to four years of tough times in the coal industry.”
Coal accounts for about half of West Virginia’s exports. In the early part of the decade, growth in international coal markets helped push state coal exports to record levels — $5.3 billion in 2011 and $7.4 billion in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But as the market began to soften in 2013, total state coal exports fell 39 percent to about $4.5 billion…