Friday, February 03, 2012

Blog #3: Coal’s not dying — it’s just getting shipped abroad

The United States has been decreasing it’s dependence on domestic coal. In theory this sounds like a wonderful thing. But in reality could have a very different environmental impact. Coal use over the last decade in America has continued to drop. In 2000 America got 52% of it’s electricity from coal. In 2010 that number dropped to 45%. By the year 2030 the U.S. government is projecting that number to drop to 39%. Mostly due to new EPA rules that would crack down on leftover coal ash and greenhouse gas missions along with the increased use of natural gas, solar and wind power. The decrease in coal use would make a dramatic difference in America’s global warming contributions. Deutsche Bank estimates that the drop in coal pollution would result in a 16% cut in all U.S. emissions. However the U.S. is still sitting on plenty of coal, especially in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. The surplus of coal has increased America’s coal exports to Europe and Asia, fulling their need for cheap energy. This alone has helped the American coal companies increase their profits while domestic profits dwindle. One Tokyo shipping company is estimating that U.S. coal exports could double in the next three to four years. In Washington state, coal companies are proposing two large export terminals to help in shipping tens of millions of tons of coal overseas. One possible problem with such cheap energy is it could spur China to produce even more coal power plants instead of finding other less polluting forms of energy. If this were to occur, it could cancel out the positive effect of America’s declining coal use.
From what we hear in the U.S. about declining coal use and cleaner coal burning facilities one might think we are in going in the right direction. But with the media and government filters that are placed on us, it’s hard to tell what is actually going on. They would like us to believe that all is great and we are helping with the world’s pollution, but in reality we are just shipping our pollution to other areas in the globe. It doesn’t matter where coal is burned, carbon dioxide is carbon dioxide and will still have a global effect. Luckily this issue has already gained social legitimization and there has been a mobilization for action by environmental organizations. This sounds a lot like a white collar crime where the coal companies use their status here in America to get around the rules in place but are allowed to just ship their pollution elsewhere while still filling their pockets with money. It seems that these companies have no values when it comes to making money. One would think that these up and coming countries would learn from our mistakes and have more of a social conscious but it seems that greed is the name of the game. Since America has already outsourced most of our industries, turning us into a post industrial society that the only thing else to outsource are our bad habits like pollution. Just because it’s not happening in our backyard anymore, it’s still happening and will still affect us all.

1 comment:

Janesha Hassaram said...

Great article! Reducing the global use of coal is very important for our atmosphere/global warming. US and China are both the top 2 countries that use coal. It is necessary that the other developing nations do not depend on coal for industrialization as well.