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Its difficult to challenge the elegant logic of Professor Khé's argument that appeared as an OpEd in the Oregonian.


Coal exports won't produce long-term economic benefits for Oregon

By Sriram Khé

We need to start thinking about coal the way we think about wood as a source of fuel. Three centuries ago, wood was by far the dominant source of energy, but we don't harvest trees in order to export them as firewood, do we?

Our energy sources are quickly shifting toward better and cheaper alternatives. Even now, it turns out that joule for joule, natural gas is becoming a better bargain than coal, similar to how coal itself displaced wood in our economic history. While natural gas extraction and use is not without controversies, its price has been rapidly falling for the past few years. The price for natural gas, which accounts for about a quarter of the energy consumption in the U.S., has halved over the past year. It has become so inexpensive that even coal-fired power generation plants are now being converted to make use of this better source.

And there are serious ethical problems. I find it disturbing, to put it mildly, that affluent countries like the United States and Canada, to name just a few, are vociferous about the fragile global environment and yet are eager to sell to poorer countries the very resources that are, directly or indirectly, harmful in many ways. I would rather that we developed and exported technical knowledge so that the developing countries can afford to bypass the mistakes the richer countries made in their industrial revolutions. By exporting coal, we will not do anybody, including ourselves, any favor at all.
We need a global response to address climate change. Shifting the our dependence on dirty coal to poorer countries with expanding industrial economies is not a rational or responsible way to address the problem.

Not content to let the citizens of the Pacific Northwest craft our own policies to respond to the mutable proposals for new coal export terminals the big coal companies are weighing in  with an expensive media campaign that kicked off with this ad that is running on the morning shows.


Jobs destabilizing the climate, making weather more extreme, and erratic.

A few jobs that are helping to make sure that future generations won't enjoy the same quality of life we take for granted.

Is that what we really want?

‘Astroturf’ group: Media blitz for coal exports

An industry-funded, so-called “Astroturf” group has launched a TV, radio, print and online media blitz to swing Northwest public opinion in favor of location of coal ports in Washington and Oregon that would be served by mile-long coal trains.

The public supports coal export ports, said spokeswoman Lauri Hennessey, adding:  “But right now we are hearing from a loud minority and it’s time to tell our story.”
Cloud Peak recently signed an agreement to lease and mine up to 1.4 billion tons of coal on Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation near the Wyoming border.

The amount is greater than the amount of coal that the U.S. burns in a year.  It would come from the Powder River Basin, which accounts for 40 percent of America’s coal production.

The Alliance’s founding members include Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Pembre Energy, the Union Pacific Railroad, the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad, SSA Marine and the National Association of Manufacturers.
These Companies with the most money to gain exporting coal to developing countries as their domestic markets diminish are trying to sell us something we really don't want. A less livable planet, and they hold out the old carrot of jobs.  

I have a tactic to suggest to opponents of the coal maga-ports proposed for Washington and Oregon: Pickett at busy train crossings when they are shut down for passing trains, pointing to the drastic increases in train traffic at those crossings would suffer from if the proposed coal export ports were built and put into operation. Just a thought.
Its up to all of us in the Pacific Northwest to counter this slick big money PR bcampaign by the coal companies.

Originally posted to Lefty Coaster on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 01:33 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks, Kosowatt, DK GreenRoots, Native American Netroots, and Community Spotlight.

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