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New Korean Tax Hits WYO Coal

PHOTO: A new tax in South Korea is big news for Powder River Basin coal. Photo courtesy USGS.gov
PHOTO: A new tax in South Korea is big news for Powder River Basin coal. Photo courtesy USGS.gov
July 7, 2014

SHERIDAN, Wyo. – A new tax in South Korea is big news for Powder River Basin coal. Korea is one of the largest export markets for Wyoming coal, and Clark Williams-Derry, deputy director at the Sightline Institute, describes the tax as hefty.

He says it ranges between $16 and $18 per metric ton for coal that sells for about $14 per metric ton at the mining site – and on top of that, the coal market is seeing current prices drop to levels of four to five years ago.

"And it's really for hard for U.S. producers to make a profit selling into Asia in today's market," says Williams-Derry. "Announcements like this from South Korea are just going to make things that much more uncertain."

The Sightline Institute analyzes policies related to sustainability. According to Williams-Derry, Korea has been up-front about trying to reduce coal imports, and a tax can be an effective way to force change.

Coal companies have been pushing for more export terminals on the West Coast to get Powder River Basin coal to Asian markets. However, while U.S. coal use is usually related to electricity generation, he notes that isn't always case in South Korea.

"And not just in power plants, but also in domestic use. There are many places in Korea where coal is used for cooking and home-heating," he explains. "And for health reasons, they're trying to push some of that that to propane or kerosene, or some other kind of fuel."

He adds that while many assume China is a top destination for Powder River Basin coal, South Korea is actually the top market because the shipping route is shorter.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY