U.S. Coal Exports Have Bright Future (The Desert Sun)
Is Coal Still Relevant as a Fossil Fuel Export Potential?
By Morris Beschloss, Special to The Desert Sun
Although the U.S. retains the largest coal reserves in the world, along with the top rung in natural gas, and just short of global leadership in oil, coal has become the target of frontal attacks by government agencies such as the EPA, as well as regulatory restraints that relegate this fossil fuel to a fading element of the past, headed for extinction.
The bankruptcy proceedings of Patriot Coal and the weakened position of Peabody would tend to reiterate the fading benefits of this once mighty power generation/industry element.
But a recent report from the National Center for Policy Analysis Research paints a more optimistic picture, despite the hammer blows of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has done everything to curtail coal use, down to 38% of existing utility fossil fuels, while retaining most of its benefits of converting iron ore to steel. Additional expansions are prevented from utilizing coal as a powering agent.
The NCPA report derives its increasingly optimistic conclusions from foreign demand for U.S. coal, which this research organization claims is on the rise. NCPA points to increasing demand from India, Japan, and especially China, which relies on coal for over 70% of its growing energy production.
Germany’s imports of American coal have doubled in the recent past. It continues to rise as Berlin attempts to eliminate all use of nuclear power generation by 2022.
The United Kingdom and the Netherlands were the two largest importers of American coal in 2013. American coal exports to Britain were 73% higher in the first three quarters of that year, as compared to the same period in 2012.
While NCPA admits to the greater amount of CO² and greenhouse gas emissions by coal as compared to natural gas and renewables, both undeveloped, developing, and even some European developed nations consider coal’s low cost for power generation a major factor. This, to some of these nations, is more important than “climatological purity.”
In the current seesaw between long-term climatological benefits and lower cost of “steel-making,” as well as heating, cooling, and power generation, coal’s ready availability and cost effectiveness wins out. Even China, which is attempting to “defumigate” its big cities, will still buy coal to supplement its insufficient indigenous resources from lesser climatically stringent exporters, if not the U.S.
At this point of American recovery, it would seem a greater tilt to economic export advantage might be the wiser decision in supporting America’s export revenues, hamstrung by the current “sky-high” dollars, and the potential cutback in oil production.
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