A large part of coal dependency of the U.S. simply comes from the relationship the country has had with the coal industry. The U.S. has vast coal reserves (though a great deal is now imported as well), which allowed the industry to become huge, dominate the railways, create many of the first generation of power plants, and gain massive political influence. By appealing to the population with the ‘American-ness’ of coal, coal companies and politicians are able to keep change at bay.
This idea, of course, is misleading, considering the fact that many states now spend billions of dollars annually on imported coal, with 6 of the top 10 spenders being southern states.
There are several serious inaccuracies in the other answer. The US DOES NOT import “a great deal” of coal; in fact the US is a net exporter of coal. US coal production is about 1.1 billion tons a year. Consumption is about 1.0 billion tons. Imports total 32 million tons and exports total 85 million tons, for a net export total of 53 million tons. All those export-import values are trivial in the face of total production and consumption.
Most of the references to “imports” to states in the articles cited in the other answer reflect “imports” from other states. Such domestic transfers generally are not refererred to as imports. The states that do acquire coal from elsewhere, whether from West Virginia or Colombia, do so because they do not have it and because the coal-based infrastructure is well established and cheap.
Coal IS indeed an American product. The US has the largest reserves of any nation, and produces more than any nation other than China. And to repeat, the US is a net EXPORTER of coal.
Change does not happen because it is cheap to continue with what we have now.
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