King Coal's Comeback

Asia needs coal, and the U.S. has plenty. Will expanding exports make climate change that much worse?

Stephen Wilkes / GalleryStock

The Powder River Basin in southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming can be as beautiful as its name suggests, but that's not why mining companies call it home. The region has one of the richest deposits of coal in the world, enough to yield more than 400 million tons last year--nearly half the coal mined in the U.S. There's enough coal in the Powder River Basin to keep American lights burning for decades, except for one thing--the U.S. is using less and less of the stuff. Thanks to bargain-basement natural gas prices and tougher air-pollution regulations, coal-fired power plants are closing down,...

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