US Coal Exports
Exports Economic Contributions Report
May 09 2014

U.S. Coal Exports Reduce Energy Dependence in Europe (Virginia Pilot)

Porter: Coal as a weapon

By J. Winston PorterAs Vladimir Putin eyes his next target for annexation, energy remains the key to checking his takeover plans.

Putin’s power rests squarely on his oil and natural gas exports, which account for an astonishing 52 percent of the Russian state budget. However, this power can become Putin’s most glaring vulnerability if other countries begin to cut into the monopoly Russia has in selling gas to much of Europe.

Increasing exports of U.S. coal and expected sales of liquefied natural gas could have a potent one-two punch to help our European allies reduce dependence on Russian energy, while taking a hefty bite out of Putin’s wallet.

Eastern European nations, in particular, are pleading with Congress and the Obama administration to allow the export of surging U.S. natural gas supplies, a product of our shale “fracking” revolution. The Department of Energy has now-approved seven LNG export terminals, but these facilities remain several years away from providing gas to the global marketplace.

In the near-term, however, U.S. coal exports – likely through Norfolk, home of the nation’s largest coal-exporting facility – could fill a critical void in European energy security. Actually, coal and natural gas overlap; both can be used to produce electric power, so we can replace much of Russia’s gas with America’s plentiful coal and natural gas.

About a quarter of Europe’s gas supply comes from Russia and roughly half flows to Europe through Ukraine. The Russians are in a position to invade Eastern Ukraine while also cutting off the supply of gas to and from Ukraine. In such a scenario U.S. coal might well be an answer to meeting European energy needs.

Already, many European nations are importing more American coal to both reduce their reliance on Russian gas and to balance energy costs. European imports of U.S. coal actually hit an all-time high in 2012.

Coal provided 43 percent of the U.K.’s electricity that year – a significant jump from just 30 percent in 2011. In Germany, which is heralded by some for its embrace of costly renewable energy, the use of coal is surging. In 2013, coal plants provided 52 percent of the nation’s electricity, up from 45 percent in 2012.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk recently urged Europe to make full use of its fossil fuels: “In the EU’s eastern states, Poland among them, coal is synonymous with energy security.”

If the U.S. is to help our allies wean themselves from Russia’s gas monopoly, we must both allow the free market to work and properly measure energy security and foreign policy with environmental considerations. Overzealous actions to limit the production and free trade of fossil fuels in the name of “solving” climate change would be a blunder of the worst kind.

And if Europe’s energy predicament can provide us any lesson, it’s that we must not lose sight of our own energy security.

Unfortunately, bad White House and EPA policies are threatening the use of “fracking” to produce both oil and gas. Other misguided regulations are forcing well-operating coal power plants into early retirement, while making it almost impossible to build new and cleaner coal facilities.

These regulatory missteps are compounding to weaken our economic competitiveness and undercut the balance and security of our energy supply.

The U.S. is blessed with vast oil and natural gas resources and the world’s largest coal reserves. It’s critical to both our own security and that of our allies that we find increasingly efficient and clean ways to produce and use these resources. Oil, gas and coal remain the unrivaled centerpieces to both our energy supply, and the world’s.

We are more than capable of flexing our energy muscle. Thankfully, that is a question of policy, not availability and access to resources. Let’s help Europe turn Putin’s energy weapon back on himself, while improving the American economy.

J. Winston Porter is an energy and environment consultant in Savannah, Ga., and was an assistant administrator of the EPA under President Ronald Reagan.

See article here.

  • “The fact that we’re no longer in the age of energy scarcity – that we’re in the age of energy abundance – positions the United States in a totally different place. This gives access to affordable, reliable energy in the United States, and gives the U.S. a major competitive advantage.”
    – Dave Banks, Special Assistant to President Donald Trump for International Energy, June 2017
  • “It is in the national interest to promote clean and safe development of our Nation's vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation. Moreover, the prudent development of these natural resources is essential to ensuring the Nation's geopolitical security.”
    – Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, March 28, 2017
  • “Historically, U.S. companies seeking to expand their revenues focused first on increasing their number and share of U.S customers. For years, this focus served as a winning strategy for many of the most successful U.S. companies. Today, global economic trends make clear that successful companies are those that reach and sell to consumers outside U.S. borders and around the globe.”
    — 2011 National Export Strategy, U.S. Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee
  • “Federal regulatory agencies should not require climate change studies in the course of their permitting processes for proposed facilities. Coal will be consumed around the world regardless of U.S. trade policy. The only question is whether the coal is produced here in North America, where environmental standards are high, or elsewhere.”
    — U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, January 7, 2014
  • “At present 19% of the world’s population, 1.3 billion people, lack access to electricity and on New Policy Scenario projections there will still be 1 billion people without such access in 2030. To meet the UN Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2015, 395 million more people need access to electricity. There is a strong correlation between electrification and improvement in the United Nations’ Human Development Index.”
    — International Energy Agency, Coal Industry Advisory Board
  • “Access to electricity is strongly correlated with every measurable indicator of human development”
    — Berkeley Science Review, 2008

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