Coal Exports Would Boost Northwest U.S. Economy (The Oregonian)
Coal exports would help our struggling economy
By John Mohlis, Robert Westerman, Herb Krohn and Mike Elliott
Like the rest of the nation, the Northwest continues to struggle with a sluggish economy and nagging unemployment. But one area — exports — is a bright spot. That’s a good thing, because at least one in four Northwest jobs is trade-dependent.
The Northwest trade economy is unique because of how much we export versus import. Every day, dozens of American-grown and American-made commodities and products make their way through ports in Washington and Oregon. They arrive by train, truck and barge, and are shipped to our trading partners in Asia and around the globe. In 2010, President Obama, recognizing the critical role exports can play in driving the nation’s economic recovery, promised to double U.S. exports over the next five years, which he said could create 2 million jobs.
But right now, we have a choice: Expand our Northwest export economy and grow employment and our tax revenue base, or watch new jobs and revenues go elsewhere. Several private companies are proposing to build and upgrade shipping terminals in Washington and Oregon for exporting coal from the Powder River basin of Montana and Wyoming. These proposals will provide a meaningful boost to our regional economy and will help create and protect hundreds of good-paying union jobs in construction, transportation and manufacturing.
Each of these shipping terminals will have a positive economic impact in the mostly rural communities where they are located, leading to increased employment and revenues for local governments. Taken together, these projects will create thousands of jobs in manufacturing, construction, transportation and trade, and millions in new revenues for cash-strapped schools and other vital services. It’s no wonder a recent Oregon Public Broadcasting poll of Northwest residents showed that 55 percent of those surveyed support the idea of exporting coal through Northwest ports.
Like other new infrastructure projects, each new coal export terminal will undergo extensive review by local, state and federal government officials to ensure they meet or exceed all existing state and federal environmental laws. By following the tough environmental reviews and standards required under law, government regulators will ensure that we will enjoy job creation, a growing economy and the clean environment that is one of our region’s proudest heritages. We urge regulators at all levels of government to give these projects and the good-paying jobs they will support a green light — not a stop sign.
Not one ton more of coal will be used globally because of U.S. exports, and there will be no net gain in greenhouse gas emissions as a result of these projects. The question is whether the United States benefits or the benefits go elsewhere. If these countries don’t import coal from the United States, they will simply get it from countries such as Indonesia that will be happy to step in. This is our choice: Will the Northwest benefit economically from the growing Asian demand for coal, or will people elsewhere? We believe people here should benefit.
Trade and exports are a rich part of our history and an asset for our future. There was a time, years ago, when we may have lacked the understanding and technology to achieve both a strong economy and clean environment. Not anymore. Today, thanks to advances in technology, tough laws and best practices to protect the environment, robust public oversight and responsible operation by companies and workers alike, we can achieve both good jobs and a clean environment.
Now, with so many people out of work and governments forced to cut funding for schools and vital services, we should embrace this coal export opportunity — for our economy of today and tomorrow.
John Mohlis is executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council. Robert Westerman is with IBEW Local Union 932 (Oregon). Herb Krohn is Washington state legislative director of the United Transportation Union. Mike Elliott is chairman of the Washington state legislative board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
See article here.