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article imageU.S. exports global warming

By Megan Morreale     Feb 7, 2014 in Environment
While America talks of a greener and cleaner future, exports of dirty fuel into other countries are flooding the markets with cheap, high carbon fuels.
America is becoming a cleaner and greener country. This is a very real and profound occurrence. Since Obama took office, out solar capacity has increased more than tenfold, wind power has doubled and we burn 5 billion fewer gallons of gasoline a year than we did in 2008.
All of this green change is causing a bit of chaos in the coal industries, who will be hit harder as the EPA is expected to issue regulations in June that will limit emissions from existing coal facilities. These rules should put more pressure on fracking, a process that generates half the greenhouse pollution of coal.
"The Obama administration wants to be seen as a climate leader, but there is no source of fossil fuel that it is prepared to leave in the ground," says Lorne Stockman, research director for Oil Change International. "Coal, gas, refinery products – crude oil is the last frontier on this. You want it? We're going to export it."
"Petcoke" is a filthy byproduct of gasoline and diesel from Canadian tar-sands crude. This type of fuel can be burned for fuel, but converting the substance into usable fuels take a huge amount of energy. The black fuel that is produced from this process ends up as petroleum coke.
Petroleum coke is a much denser material. Basically concentrated coal, it is much dirtier than anything that comes out of a mine. It has a very harmful effect on the environment, and the EPA has stopped issuing any new licenses for its use as fuel.
Since we can no longer use this fuel, what have we been doing with it? Exporting it. the tar-sands boom in the U.S. is gearing up to become a top player in the global export market for gasoline and diesel.
"We're telling the world on the one hand that it's time for leadership from us on facing up to carbon pollution," says Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island. "While on the other we're saying, 'Hey, here, buy our high-carbon-pollution fuels.'"
If the big oil industries get what they want, they will be able to return to exporting not only refined petroleum products, but crude oil as well. This practice has been illegal since the 1970s. The crude-oil-export ban requires that all oil exported out of the U.S. must be refined in the U.S.
Regardless of the ban's uses and the fact that it has been a linchpin of U.S. energy security for more than a generation, multiple politicians in Washington want the ban lifted so that exports of tar-sands oil can start to recuperate some of the losses from the coal industry in the face of greener technology.
Obama's energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, told reporters at a recent energy conference that the ban is a relic and ought to be re-examined "in the context of what is now an energy world that is no longer like the 1970s."
As the reported in Rolling Stone Magazine, the deck is stacked against proponents of protecting the climate, but climate activists are holding their own.
Keystone XL is on an indefinite hold, and Whitehouse says he's "optimistic" that the pipeline won't gain approval on the watch of new Secretary of State John Kerry. Likewise, Obama's Powder River Basin initiatives seem to be going nowhere in the face of strong regional and national opposition. Even Wall Street is getting cold feet on coal. In January, Goldman Sachs dumped its stake in the Cherry Point, Washington, terminal once celebrated by Peabody Coal's CEO as emblematic of his industry's future. And with no clear path to China, coal companies themselves are pulling back. In two BLM auctions last summer, one failed to solicit any bids by coal companies; the other received a single bid – and it was too low for even the famously coal-friendly BLM to accept.
Whether or not the U.S. morphs into a dirty energy hub will depend on the 2016 elections and will require a more competitive democratic party.
More about Global warming, Coal, Fracking, dirty coal, dirty energy
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