The production of coal across the US is expected to fall by about 7% in 2009 in response to lower domestic coal consumption and high coal inventories, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Coal consumption in the US electric power sector is projected to drop below the one billion short tons mark this year for the first time since 2002.

The April 2009 production estimate of 88.3 million short tons is the lowest monthly coal production figure since May 2004.

Alongside a drop in domestic demand, coal exports are expected to fall by 20%.

Both production and consumption will increase during 2010 if the US economy rebounds, the agency said.