WHEELING - West Virginia exported $7.4 billion worth of coal in 2012, meaning minerals extracted from local mines may be burned in China or Brazil.
However, coal is but one of the many products West Virginia sends to continents such as Asia, South America and Europe, according to the state Development Office.
During the Tuesday Wheeling Economic Outlook Conference at Oglebay Park, West Virginia University officials and other leaders discussed the state of the local and national economies.
"Coal production is going to grow between now and 2040," said Don Rigby, executive director of the Wheeling-based Regional Economic Development Partnership. "The question is, 'Where is it going to be burned?'"
Faced with ever-increasing environmental scrutiny in the U.S., coal producers can look abroad to sell their products. West Virginia led the nation by exporting $7.4 billion in coal last year, followed by Alabama with $1.7 billion, Pennsylvania with $1.25 billion, Louisiana with $1.14 billion and Missouri with $680 million.
However, coal is far from all that West Virginia industries are sending overseas. In fact, the dollar value of products made in the Mountain State was $11.3 billion in 2012, up from $2.4 billion in 2003.
To countries such as Chile, South Africa, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Ukraine, West Virginia exported $1 billion worth of plastics last year. Other exported products include machinery, chemicals, aerospace components, medical devices, automotive parts, aluminum, wood products, electrical machinery and rubber products.
Following months of review and consideration, Department of Energy officials decided to allow Dominion Resources to export liquefied natural gas to countries such as India and Japan.
Thomas F. Farrell II, Dominion chairman, president and chief executive officer, has said much of this gas will be drawn from the Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling operations in Ohio and West Virginia.