Op-Ed: Obama climate policy is a lie as long as we export our coal

Posted Jul 30, 2014 by Karen Graham
Fossil fuel trade in the U.S. has flourished under President Barack Obama, and coal exports have sky-rocketed. In the past six years alone, our energy companies have sent more coal overseas than ever before.
Pocahontas coal plant in Eastgulf  West Virginia. Photo taken in 2014.
Pocahontas coal plant in Eastgulf, West Virginia. Photo taken in 2014.
While the White House is touting clean energy and reduction of greenhouse gases in America, at the very same time, we are exporting millions of tons of coal, much of it "dirty coal," to other countries, many of them ill-equipped to do anything about cleaning up the atmosphere, and in some cases, having no intention of doing anything to reduce carbon emissions.
On July 27. the Washington Post ran a story about the exporting of coal to South America from the coalfields of Appalachia, describing the massive shipment of 80,000 tons of carbon-dioxide-producing fossil fuel as a prime example of a flawed American climate policy.
Roger Martella, the former general counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush said, “Although the administration is moving forward with climate change regulations at home, we don’t consider how policy decisions in the United States impact greenhouse gas emissions in other parts of the world.”
Is it a matter of "not considering" the consequences, or just not caring? It seems to still come back to the money, an issue that is evident in almost every policy coming through Washington today. While the U.S. is being weaned off dirty energy sources, our energy companies have literally been given the green-light to sell our cast-off dirty coal to other nations.
By doing so, we can brag to the world that we are making gains in increasing our use of natural gas, a cleaner energy source, thereby reducing carbon emissions, saving endangered ocean animals, and the list goes on, but at the same time, our exported dirty coal is going to be used in power plants and factories around the world. How is this going to reduce carbon emissions on a global scale?
As U.S. companies look toward the doubling of coal exports, backed up with the building of three new terminals on the West Coast, we are fueling the demand for fossil fuels when many experts say they should be left buried in the ground. The Governors of Washington and Oregon have appealed to the Obama administration to evaluate and disclose the extent of global-fallout from these exports. The White House's answer: If the U.S. didn't supply the coal, some other country would.
The American public needs to know the real truth about Obama's two-sided stance on climate change and carbon emissions. According to the Japan Times, the White House says our coal is having a "negligible global footprint" and reducing the worldwide use of coal is the best way to ease global warming.
“There may be a very marginal increase in coal exports caused by our climate policies,” said Rick Duke, Obama’s deputy climate adviser, in an interview with The Associated Press. “Given that coal supply is widely available from many sources, our time is better spent working on leading toward a global commitment to cut carbon pollution on the demand side.”
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in the first quarter of 2014. the U.S. exported 27,731,043 short tons of coal. Over 15 million tons went to European nations, with South Korea, Japan and India splitting the bulk of the 6.3 million tons sent to Asia. Based on the figures available, a doubling of exports would result in an average 55 million ton export quota per quarter.
This amounts to no reduction in greenhouse gases on a global scale, and I am left asking, why? All I am left with is a climate policy that is nothing more than a cover-up for the exploitation of other countries at the expense of the American people. This is not right in every way imaginable.