I keep hearing the U.S. described as the “Saudi Arabia of coal.” This turns out to be half true. According to BP, China produced three billion tons of coal in 2009, or 46% of the world’s share. In second place was the U.S., with .97 billion tons, 16% of the world’s share. But in proven reserves, according to the World Energy Council (an NGO), we lead with 23% of the world’s supply, followed by Russia (14%), China (13%), and Australia (9%).
Awkwardly, a lot of the U.S.’s supply of coal is under stuff—you know, cities, homes, schools, roads, etc.—rendering it functionally inaccessible. China manages to export more with fewer reserves because they’re communist—property can be seized at any time—and because they mine with little regard for human life, running the world’s deadliest mines, in which thousands of people die every year, an average of six people every day. I’m not sure that we want to compete with that.