Monday, February 17, 2014

US Coal Exports

    The United States coal industry has always been a big business. In my primary article the implications of exporting this resource are discussed. When the effects of acid rain were recognized a few decades ago, low-sulfur coal became a prime commodity, and federal lands containing it were leased to coal companies at a low price. Now, with alternative energy on the rise coal is not being used as much in America. Instead, it is being shipped overseas, notably to Asian countries. While there is a lot of talk about the effects this will have on the environment, the writer also points out that despite the talk of new jobs, the coal companies are the ones making bank in this particular case. The prices that were lowered due to the need for low-sulfur coal were never raised again, so the coal is mined outrageously cheaply and then sold for high prices overseas. According to one study $1 billion in taxes alone has been lost over the past three decades. The article also brings up the topic of some Asian countries’ less than stellar environmental laws, and the effect it can have on the planet. The problem is that the Federal Government doesn’t seem very concerned with any of this.
    My second article is a report on Washington State’s investigation into the environmental impact of coal exports. Since it is such a lucrative business, more export facilities are being built; the author states that three of the planned buildings together would allow annual exports matching the total coal exported in 2011 (107 million tons.) The plan is for the Washington Department of Ecology to investigate greenhouse emissions from Asia that are a direct result from burning U.S. coal. This is interesting considering it is in contrast with the federal government’s stance on the situation. It shows that there is concern, and the research being conducted may be a sign of change to come.
    The coal industry in America has always held too much power in my opinion. They make enormous amounts of money while doing tremendous amounts of damage to the land, and there have never been enough regulations in place to hold them accountable. By exporting to Asia they just continue to profit when we have started looking for cleaner energy solutions. We should definitely update the leasing policies in place, and investigate the taxes these companies should be paying. While there is little we can do about Asia’s pollution policies, I do think that the research into Asia’s emissions will give important data about how the resources we put on the market can potentially affect the world as a whole. If it does have a significant impact, then it could help form another argument for cleaner energy resources.
--Samantha Adrian

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