Environmentalists successfully blocked the construction of a new coal export terminal in Oakland, California recently, citing the dangers the admittedly dirty-burning energy source posed to the planet’s climate. Green opposition to coal is nothing new, but this case was a little different: In Oakland, American environmentalists were protesting coal that would be burned clear across the Pacific Ocean to help fuel Asia’s development. Bloomberg reports:
Oakland’s rejection marks a sea change in the fight against coal exports from the U.S. and underscores an emerging challenge for energy projects. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have scuttled three of six coal terminals proposed in the U.S. Pacific Northwest that would have shipped as much as 146 million metric tons annually to booming markets in Asia. […]In Oregon, Ambre Energy Ltd.’s North American subsidiary is facing its seventh regulatory delay as it tries to strengthen its case for an export terminal. It has been seeking permits since 2012.A pact signed in October by U.S. West Coast governors signaled that coal shippers will continue to face opposition. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and Washington Governor Jay Inslee, both Democrats, wrote a letter last year to federal regulators asking them to consider climate change when deciding on export terminals.
America is exporting more and more coal as cheap, fracked shale gas displaces coal use here in the states. “Green” Europe is importing much of what we are no longer burning, but Asia is a much more promising customer. Its already considerable coal consumption is expected to increase more than 50 percent by 2040, according to the EIA’s 2013 International Energy Outlook:
This is what greens do best: tell other people how they ought to live their lives, or in this case, source their energy needs. Forget the fact that in countries like China and India, coal is one of the cheapest options for powering development that will lift millions out of poverty. Forget that the countries themselves are wrangling with the right balance of development and environmental protection. No, for American greens, this is a problem to be solved in the states, no matter the costs to the developing world’s poor.