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More of the same for coal in 2013?

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It's been a tough year to produce coal. It's probably more of the same for 2013.

The Energy Information Administration on Dec. 3 highlighted in its daily energy post that coal production in 2013 will be close to its 2012 level. The analysis was pointed out in the November 2012 Short-Term Energy Outlook.

Between 2012 and 2011, coal production declined 7 percent. The drop in coal has been driven by increasingly more attractive alternatives.

Natural gas, for example, is now abundant and cheap and easily meets current and proposed environmental regulations. New coal-fired power plants are required to install more cost-prohibitive pollution control systems.

The idea that coal production will be largely the same doesn't show the whole picture. Western coals are expected to reverse course and actually grow five percent in 2013.

Appalachian coal, along with its Interior-region neighbor, is expected to fall in production again.

The overall decline will happen despite high export activity, though exports of coal are also expected to decline next year. The reason, EIA said, is economic weakness in Europe and increased coal production Asia.

The Today in Energy post from the EIA is available on its website.