"Big coal is hardly in retrenchment mode. Four of the nation’s five biggest coal companies saw sales rise in 2010, even as the Obama administration blocks expansion of coal mines and focuses on greener energy.
Most of the 1 billion tons of coal produced every year is used to generate electricity in the United States, said Carol Raulston, a spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, a trade group. Growth in production from 2009 to 2010 is attributed to an improving economy, which creates greater demand for electricity — and, therefore, coal.
“Coal is a critical component of America’s comprehensive energy portfolio,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said March 22 when announcing the opening of acreage in Wyoming to new mining.
Even so, the coal industry says it is concerned about the criticism of coal and efforts by the administration to block its expansion.The Environmental Protection Agency, Raulston said, has not allowed new mines to be built or old ones to be expanded since Obama took office in 2009. The industry has sued the EPA over about 200 permits that have been held up. "