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The climate impact of coal exports

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sightline | Jul 20, 2011 05:00 AM

By Eric de Place,

This post is part of the research project: The Dirt on Coal

One of the nation’s most respected resource economists, Dr. Thomas M. Power, just released a new white paper showing that coal exports to China will increase that country’s coal burning and pollution, and decrease investments in energy efficiency.

In a nutshell, Power demonstrates that the planned coal export facilities in the Northwest would add to the supply of coal to China thereby pushing down the cost of burning it. And because China is highly cost sensitive, even relatively small changes in price could result in significant changes in coal burning. Furthermore, low coal prices in the near term will encourage long term investments in new coal burning facilities that would lock in decades of further demand for coal.

Power’s report provides a direct and evidence-based refutation to coal industry claims that US exports make no difference to foreign coal consumers. The industry’s argument, of course, flies in the face of basic economic principles, not to mention the specific characteristics of China’s energy economy. Now, policymakers have an independent examination of the ways that the export facilities planned for the Northwest will make a difference for China’s pollution and even for global climate stability.  

Read the whole thing here: “The Greenhouse Gas Impact of Exporting Coal From the West Coast: An Economic Analysis.” (It’s a 29 page report, but those pressed for time will find a 2 page executive summary at the beginning.)

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

Originally posted at The Daily Score, a Sightline Institute blog.

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