Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

U.S. coal exports put Obama in a bind

The Obama administration’s goal of reducing the nation’s carbon emissions has been working, but energy companies are sending increasing amounts of coal to other parts of the world. 

Associated Press

The Obama administration’s goal of reducing the nation’s carbon emissions has been working, but energy companies are sending increasing amounts of coal to other parts of the world. 

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — As the Obama administration weans the United States off dirty fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America's unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution.

This fossil fuel trade threatens to undermine President Barack Obama's strategy for reducing the gases blamed for climate change and reveals a little-discussed side effect of countries acting alone on a global problem.

"This is the single biggest flaw in U.S. climate policy," said Roger Martella, the former general counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush. "Although the administration is moving forward with climate change regulations at home, we don't consider how policy decisions in the United States impact greenhouse gas emissions in other parts of the world."

Over the past six years, American energy companies have sent more coal than ever before to other parts of the world, in some cases to places with more lax environmental standards.

The consequence: This global shell game makes the United States appear to be making more progress than it is on global warming. That's because it shifts some pollution — and the burden for cleaning it up — onto other countries' balance sheets.

"Energy exports bit by bit are chipping away at gains we are making on carbon dioxide domestically," said Shakeb Afsah, an economist who runs an energy consulting firm in Bethesda, Md.

As companies look to double U.S. coal exports, with three new terminals along the West Coast, America could be fueling demand for coal when many experts say that most fossil fuels should remain buried to avert the most disastrous effects of climate change.

But the administration has resisted calls from governors in Washington state and Oregon to evaluate and disclose such global fallout, saying that if the United States didn't supply the coal, another country would.

White House officials say U.S. coal has a negligible global footprint and reducing coal's use worldwide is the best way to ease global warming. The United States in 2012 accounted for 9 percent of worldwide coal exports, the latest data available.

"There may be a very marginal increase in coal exports caused by our climate policies," said Rick Duke, Obama's deputy climate adviser, in an interview with the Associated Press. "Given that coal supply is widely available from many sources, our time is better spent working on leading toward a global commitment to cut carbon pollution on the demand side."

Analyses suggest U.S. exports could be reducing by half or wiping out completely the pollution savings in the United States from switching power plants from coal to natural gas.

U.S. coal exports put Obama in a bind 07/27/14 [Last modified: Sunday, July 27, 2014 10:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Ratings service Nielsen begins tracking live TV consumption on Hulu, YouTube

    Retail

    TV ratings service Nielsen will begin tracking how many people watch network TV on YouTube and Hulu to gauge how many viewers broadcast networks have through streaming, the company announced Tuesday.

    Nielsen, a ratings company, is monitoring how many viewers watch live TV on Hulu and YouTube to get a better sense of overall viewership. | [AP]
  2. FWC investigates viral video of shark getting dragged behind speeding boat (w/video)

    Wildlife

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water. [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  3. Cheers, whoops for McCain's return, then impassioned speech

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — In high drama at the Capitol, Sen. John McCain on Tuesday delivered a crucial vote in the Republican drive to dismantle the health care law, a win for President Donald Trump and GOP leaders, and then leveled a broadside at how the GOP got there.

    In this image from video provided by C-SPAN2, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. is embraced by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of N.Y. as he arrives of the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday. [C-SPAN2 via AP]
  4. For starters: Slumping LoMo, Dickerson not in Rays lineup tonight vs LHP

    Blogs

    1B Logan Morrison and LF Corey Dickerson, two of the main slumpers in the Rays lineup, are not in tonight's lineup with the Orioles throwing LHP Wade Miley.

    Logan Morrison is 0-for-12 on this homestand.
  5. Pence breaks tie as Senate votes to begin debating 'Obamacare' repeal

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — The Senate narrowly voted Tuesday to begin debate on a bill to repeal major provisions of the health care law, taking a pivotal step forward after the dramatic return of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who cast a crucial vote despite his diagnosis of brain cancer.

    Vice President Mike Pence (R) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus arrive on Capitol Hill, Tuesday in Washington, D.C. [Getty Images]