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U.S. Coal Exports America’s Carbon Footprint Around the Globe

U.S. Coal Exports America’s Carbon Footprint Around the Globe

In June, the EPA released its plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. The emissions guidelines propose “state specific rate based goals” to address greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel power plants. This is just one of a series of efforts on behalf of the Obama Administration to take the lead on global climate change. The coal industry fought unsuccessfully to stop the regulations. As a result, many of the nation’s more than 600 coal and oil-powered plants have gone offline, with many more expected to be retired by 2016.

With the cost of coal increasing as the price of natural gas has decreased (largely due to fracking), America has reduced, though not eliminated, its reliance on coal powered energy over the last six years. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind continue to be added to the grid, but still provide a small part of our energy. Nevertheless, America has made significant strides in reducing the carbon dioxide emissions that are the cause of the planet’s global warming.

That is, reducing emissions here in America.

During the same period that U.S. consumption of coal fell, coal exports increased. For most of the world, coal still remains the cheapest form of energy and the U.S. has a large recoverable source. Several countries buy American coal including the UK, Italy, Germany and China. The Netherlands coal imports also get distributed to many other European nations, extending the reach throughout the continent.

Germany has been lauded for its investment in solar power in recent years. Still, it’s not enough to keep up with growing energy demands. Germany has been bringing more “clean coal” power plants online, having built five since 2008. Unlike in the United States, access to natural gas isn’t as easy and still remains very expensive for many countries. Coal is cheap and easily attainable. Australia and Indonesia remain the largest coal exporters, while Germany imports almost 50 percent of its coal from the United States.

Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions have increased significantly at the same time.

America’s largest client is China, which purchased 7.8 million tons of American coal in 2012. China accounts for nearly half of the world’s coal consumption as it tries to meet the demands of its population and growing cities. All around the world, nations are dealing with increased energy demands and don’t have enough of their own natural resources or, as in the case of China, the infrastructure and technology to access them to meet the demand. The American coal industry is more than happy to oblige.

We still consume far more coal than we export, but it’s not for a lack of trying. Geography has been a huge impediment to shipping. West Virginia is a large exporter of coal, where the Appalachian Mountains provide metallurgical grade coal to China and other nations. They have strong competition from Australia, however, which can ship for much cheaper.

Major companies are seeking ways to establish railways that head to the Pacific, where they wish to build new export terminals. The idea is to make it easier to ship to China in the hopes to become the largest supplier of the nation’s coal. Plans for shipping ports along the Pacific coast are in various stages of development, largely along the Oregon and Washington coasts. However, the plans have received a lot of pushback from environmentalists and tribes, as well as local and state governments.

The only ones not fighting them is the federal government.

The Obama Administration has authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate the impact of the proposed export terminals on climate change. Thus far, however, they have refused to do so. This has frustrated state governors in both Oregon and Washington, leading to them developing their own evaluation processes with mixed results.

The effects of emissions of coal exports aren’t just felt in other nations but in America as well.

The shipping of the coal along railways still spews ash into the air, causing health problems for anyone living along the routes. The burning of coal in power plants in China and other Asian nations emits the carbon dioxide into the air, which travels to the west coast of the United States. Carbon dioxide contributes to the rise in sea levels around the globe and the severe weather linked to global warming. Residents living along the coasts are already feeling the impact through property damage and losses caused by rising waters and intense storms.

Proving once again that climate change isn’t just local problem and requires a global commitment – no matter who is leading the charge for change.

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78 comments

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9:00AM PDT on Aug 6, 2014

(continued) republicans like you to stop blocking clean renewable energy, and supporting the billionaire Koch brothers, and your corporate masters in the dirty coal, oil, and natural gas industries that are polluting and destroying this earth. It's also time for republicans like you, to stop challenging the over whelming science that Global Warming is anthropogenic, and start doing something about it. Be part of the solution, and not the problem. The world is quickly moving into clean renewable energy, and we must also move with it, or we will get left behind. China spends twice as much as we do on clean renewable energy. Germany, which gets 26% of their electricity from clean renewable energy, recently set a record, and got 75% of their electricity from clean renewable energy at a certain time of the day. We get much better sun, and wind exposure than Germany does, so we can get 100% of our electricity from clean renewable energy. So clean renewable energy is the future, and republicans like you need to stop denying the overwhelming science that Global Warming is anthropogenic, and supporting your corporate masters in the dirty fossil fuel industry.

8:44AM PDT on Aug 6, 2014

Paul B

Dirty coal plants release sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and mercury into our air and water. The environmental cost is too high, to allow dirty coal to be used. In addition Mountain Top Removal Mining destroys mountains, and dumps coal ash and other pollution into our rivers and streams. Blowing up mountains, to get to the coal seams leaves decimated areas devoid of trees, and permanently scarred mountains. Over 500 mountains in West Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina have been destroyed because of Mountain Top Removal Mining. In addition our dirty coal is running out, as are all our dirty fossil fuels. Dirty fossil fuels are finite resources, and so clean renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal power are the future. Wind alone, could provide seven tomes the electricity the USA needs, but republicans like you need to stop blocking clean renewable energy. Their is no excuse for your republican party to block the production tax credit for wind power. This cost us jobs, and an expansion of our wind industry. You mention the coal miners who lose their jobs, but what about our struggling farmers, who get revenue from siting these giant turbines on their land. In addition the manufacturing jobs that your republican decision cost us, in the wind industry. In addition your republican/Tea Party is blocking home solar power installations. The future is in clean renewable energy, like wind, solar, and geothermal power, and it is time for repu

8:24AM PDT on Aug 6, 2014

Paul B

NOAA, NASA, the Union of Concerned Scientist, and the IPCC along with 97% of the world's climate scientist, all agree that Global Warming is anthropogenic. The debate is over. California, and the Southwest USA, and Australia are experiencing record droughts. Time lapse photography and satellite images have clearly shown that the Artic, Greenland, and all the world's glaciers are melting. Our use of dirty fossil fuels, and our meat industry that cruelly tortures, and slaughters animals on CAFO's and factory farms is pumping methane and dirty emissions into our air. Our oceans are heating up to record high temperatures, causing jellyfish, and other bacteria and animals that would ordinarily parish, to thrive, thus causing an imbalance in our eco systems. Hurricanes and mega storms, like the one that hit the Philippines, are now becoming more common, because our oceans are warmer. Yes, wind farms do kill birds, but far more birds are killed from collisions with cars, bridges, buildings, and from the pollution from dirty coal plants and natural gas fracking operations. Yes closing dirty coal plants cost jobs, but those jobs come with a price. Black lung disease, is common with coal miners. Horrible Coal mine accidents, that kill many people, like the Big Branch mine disaster, caused by the ignoring of fines, for safety violations, and warnings by the former Massey Energy coal company, have become frequent. Dirty coal plants release sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, parti

3:20PM PDT on Aug 5, 2014

The biggest flaw in all these arguments is that CO2 causes global warming.

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2:18PM PDT on Aug 5, 2014

Plus, what do you expect these coal miners to do when you try to shut them down in the US. These are people's lives, their work, their livelihood that keeps them off the government dole, or is that also part of the plan... to put more people on government dependency.

With little hope of US usage, as a business they must seek new markets, and that includes exports. Most nations, while they may want to increase renewable energy, understand that government forcing that change is harmful. Natural product/energy evolution would occur on its own, when DC gets involved, you can sure that the ONLY WINNERS are those closely tied to those who are making those rules. Crony capitalism knows no bounds and green energy is far from immune from this as we have seen with this administration.
I say end subsidies to all companies, farmers, and reform the subsidies used as welfare. It is an independent spirit that made this country great, but now we are only becoming weak because DC has imposed so many regulations our freedoms have been greatly reduced, inhibiting our ability to care for ourselves... exactly what DC wants..

2:12PM PDT on Aug 5, 2014

The biggest flaw in all these arguments is that CO2 causes global warming. That has yet to proven fact. there is no consensus on that in the scientific community despite the attempts to claim it to be so. You will argue of course, but that is your right. But, many scientists who worked for those agencies claiming such facts for monetary gain, have either been fired or quit due to the fact the have come to realize the "science" of global warming is flawed.
BTW, I thought is was Climate change... when did it get changed back to Global Warming, which is NOT happening. Kind of defeats the argument when your argument isn't proven, in fact can't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Wind power has MANY problems, among them is that is it hazardous to wildlife, and probably some endangered species, like eagles, so I wonder why the environmentalists haven't shut them down.
Hmmmm.... maybe because they only invoke that rule when it is aimed at something they don't like, used solely as a political weapon against those who oppose them.

9:28PM PDT on Aug 4, 2014

we need to stop using coal :/

10:20PM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

Brain, as you and many others

over the years

have born witness to and come to realize,
that David lives in his own reality, and is incapable of accepting reality as fact.

His ideology and dogma

act as a prison cell

from which he is willing to sacrifice truth,
dispensing his distorted biased views

as he peers at us through the bars of his extremely flawed dogmas.

3:47PM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

Brian, keep playing Ostrich, bury your head, or watch this: ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtevF4B4RtQ

7:12AM PDT on Aug 3, 2014

David

Hydro does make up the largest share of renewable energy in the world, but that is quickly changing. Wind and solar power are quickly becoming the dominate players. The USA gets 5% of their electricity from wind power. We could get much more if your republican party would allow us to renew the production tax credit for wind power. Wind power alone, could provide seven times the electricity the nation uses. The wind industry was on a tear, until, your GOP refused to raise the production tax credit, causing 2013 to be a terrible year, for installations. We've subsidized dirty fossil fuels for 100 years, so we can subsidize clean wind and solar power for a fraction of that time, to help them get started. In addition, your republican party is siding with electric utilities and trying to block solar power from being installed on homes across the country. Your GOP only cares about protecting the profits that the dirty fossil fuel industry makes. James Inhofe got paid 1.5 million from the dirty oil industry, to lie about Global warming. All your criminal republican party does is serve your corporate masters, the billionaire Koch brothers, and the dirty coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear industries. You could care less about our environment, which is being destroyed.

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