DeSmogBlog, April 28, 2013
Guest Post by Josephine Ferorelli
There is not enough room in the national headlines for all the battles between fossil fuel expansion projects and climate activists occurring right now. But the Keystone XL proposal’s public comment period ends on April 22nd, so we can shift our focus to coal exportation for a moment. Domestic coal use is one of the few figures that has been steadily dropping, with coal-fired power plants closing in many states, and utilities shifting toward other sources (mainly natural gas) for power generation.
So coal companies are scrambling with proposals to extract coal in Montana and Wyoming, ship it by train to ports in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, then freight it to Asian markets. For a good overview of domestic coal use vs. export written last year, read Ben Jervey’s analysis at DeSmog Blog.
It is frustrating (and terrifying) to devote so much of our effort to preventing fossil fuel expansion rather than actually reducing emissions, but springtime brings some good news from the northwest coast. Of the five port proposals for increased coal export capacity in the US this year, one has lost its investors and failed. The other four are facing serious public and legal opposition, and are destabilized by the shifting sands of corporate prospects; Ambre Energy in particular is dogged by rumors of insolvency. No permits have been issued yet.
One of the most common arguments in favor of expanding the US ports (an argument mostly made by the port developers themselves) is that if we don’t move the coal out ourselves, it will just head up to the ports of British Columbia and leave from there. Eric De Place of the Sightline Institute says the two reasons this is obviously not so are: 1. There isn’t the capacity and 2. the Coal Industry says so. Three Canadian export facilities are proposing expansions, but even with those potential increases they would still be nowhere near able to handle the additional coal that’s intended for Washington and Oregon.