U.S. energy exports have become a critical economic driver for stability worldwide. U.S. natural gas, oil and coal have helped defang the power of dictators, proven essential to allies in replacing Russian and Iranian energy, and have become a jobs and tax revenue boon to states nationwide.

One of the best success stories is the metallurgical coal used for steel making. While U.S. metallurgical coal — or “met” — is used for domestic steel production, much goes to exports, helping build tomorrow’s cities and infrastructure.

When Americans think of coal, they think of electricity. However, high-quality met coal is a manufacturing input used with iron ore to produce steel. In fact, nearly 1 billion tons of met coal is used annually to make 70 percent of the world’s steel. With new cities, infrastructure and energy projects rising globally, demand for steel and met coal is growing.

Urbanization — a trend rapidly accelerating — is driving demand for steel. In fact, the world’s building stock is expected to double in area by 2060. That’s the equivalent of another New York City every month for decades.

But it’s not just the growth of cities driving demand for met coal — it’s renewable energy and electrification. Consider that just one high-voltage transmission tower requires 40,000 to 60,000 pounds of steel. Each new megawatt of solar power requires between 35 to 45 tons of steel, and each new megawatt of wind power requires 120 to 180 tons of steel, with massive offshore wind turbines requiring far more.

Just how large is the steel demand from the renewable energy sector? One leading research consultancy estimated that renewable systems would require enough steel by midcentury to build 40,000 Golden Gate bridges. Completed in 1937 and still a shining symbol of American ingenuity, the Golden Gate required 88,000 tons of steel.

The demand projections are robust. It’s clear the world needs more steel, and it needs high-quality, responsibly produced met coal to supply it. American metallurgical coal is a critical piece of the answer. It’s also an economic opportunity for mining communities and American ports, which we should lean into.

As the nation’s energy mix evolves, met coal provides a growth opportunity for mining communities and states that are facing biting economic pressure. The United States has more than 175 metallurgical coal mines, employing more than 13,000 individuals. New mines and expansions are in the works.

Consider the economic effect of one company’s application to expand operations in Alabama. The sites represent hundreds of mining jobs and potentially $1.3 billion in revenue to the U.S. government and $345 million to the port of Mobile. Projects like these are economically foundational.

At a time when the economy is so closely linked to algorithms, artificial intelligence and data centers, let’s not overlook what it requires to build the cities, infrastructure and energy systems that make the world work. And let’s be doubly sure not to overlook the critical importance of the materials and energy that make it all possible.