US Coal Exports
Exports Economic Contributions Report
Jul 25 2014

New German Power Plant Relies on U.S. Coal (Associated Press)

U.S. exports coal power to Germany

LUENEN, Germany — One of Germany’s newest coal-fired power plants rises here from the banks of a 100-year-old canal that once shipped coal mined from the Ruhr Valley to the world.

Now the coal comes the other way.

The 750 MW Trianel Kohlekraftwerk Luenen GmbH & Co. power plant relies completely on coal imports, about half from the U.S. Soon, all of Germany’s coal-fired power plants will be dependent on imports, with the country expected to halt coal mining in 2018 when government subsidies end.

Coal mining’s demise in Germany comes as the country is experiencing a resurgence in coal-fired power, one which the U.S. increasingly has helped supply. U.S. exports of power plant-grade coal to Germany have more than doubled since 2008. In 2013, Germany ranked fifth, behind the United Kingdom, Netherlands, South Korea and Italy in imports of U.S. steam coal, the type burned in power plants.

On the American side of the pollution ledger, this fossil fuel trade helps the United States look as if it is making more progress on global warming than it actually is. That’s because it shifts some pollution — and the burden for cleaning it — onto another other country’s balance sheet.

Last year, Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions grew by 1.2 percent, in large part because the country burned more coal. German environmental officials say the recent boom in coal-fired power is making it harder for the country to meet its climate-protection goals, even as it has increased renewable energy and participates in a carbon market that has lowered emissions throughout Europe.

Activists put some of the blame on the U.S. and President Barack Obama.

“This is a classic case of political greenwashing,” said Dirk Jansen, a spokesman for BUND, a German environmental group. “Obama pretties up his own climate balance, but it doesn’t help the global climate at all if Obama’s carbon dioxide is coming out of chimneys in Germany.”

It’s a global shell game that threatens to undermine Obama’s strategy of reducing the gases blamed for global warming and reveals a little-discussed side effect of countries acting alone on a global problem. In the global accounting system set up to track carbon dioxide emissions, only fossil fuel consumed inside a nation’s borders is counted when calculating that country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The contribution of this exported pollution to global warming is not something the U.S. administration wants to measure, or even talk about.

White House officials say U.S. coal has a negligible global footprint and reducing coal’s use worldwide is the best way to ease global warming. In 2012, U.S. coal exports comprised 9 percent of the global export market, the most recent data available.

“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.”

Last year, global coal use grew by 3 percent, faster than any other fossil fuel, according to the 2014 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Some of that growth occurred in the U.S., where higher natural gas prices and a colder-than-average winter caused power plants to burn slightly more coal.

The explanation for Germany’s increase is simple: Coal is cheaper than alternatives, particularly natural gas. So, too, are the prices on the carbon market in Europe. Companies can afford to buy the right to release more pollution. And the country burned more coal in 2013 to meet rising demand for electricity in other countries in Europe. Preliminary figures for 2014 indicate coal use could be down. And Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation are down from their peak in 2007.

Still, Germany has built five new coal plants since 2008, adding 4,286 megawatts of new generation, according to Bundesnetzagentur, the grid supervisor. The country plans to add an additional 6,661 megawatts in coal-fired plants from 2014 through 2018, while retiring older coal plants that produced 3,779 megawatts.

The new plants in Germany are cleaner and more efficient than the older plants they are replacing, but they are also bigger. At the same time, Germany began phasing out nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan.

In the U.S., the opposite is happening. Until recently, coal was more costly than natural gas, which is booming. Environmental regulations are further pushing the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired plants to retirement by adding more costs, and any new coal-fired power plants will have to capture carbon dioxide and bury it underground if the Obama administration gets its way. Few if any new coal plants are expected to be built.

But the U.S. and other countries have no problem supplying Germany and the world with coal. Last year, U.S. coal exports totaled $11 billion in revenue.

“It’s not taking responsibility,” said Thomas Power, a research professor at the University of Montana in the U.S. who has worked for environmental groups and clean energy foundations and has pushed for a more honest accounting of emissions. “It’s shifting the responsibility to someone else.”

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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