The coal-terminal debate: A view from Japan
The Longview Millennium project brings substantial benefits to Longview and the state of Washington — and it also offers Japan a sound solution to its pressing energy-security challenges.
IT has been more than six years since Japan suffered the devastating earthquake and tsunami that triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The world is well-aware of the massive destruction caused by this unprecedented natural disaster. Perhaps less well-known is that the disaster also radically changed Japan’s energy options.
Japan lacks meaningful domestic natural energy resources and consequently imports 96 percent of such resources. Nuclear energy was seen as a viable way to be more self-sufficient in meeting our energy needs. But Fukushima changed all that with the ensuing suspension of nuclear power generation and loss of public support. Despite a concerted national effort to deploy additional renewable resources, the loss of nearly one-third of power generation capacity was difficult to replace. We were suddenly more reliant than ever on imported fossil fuels to generate electricity.
Today, we are one of the world’s top importers of coal. It is a major, indispensable source of energy in Japan for electricity. Our economy and society depend on it as a stable, reliable energy source. A stable energy supply is also a matter of national security. In a region that is becoming increasingly unfriendly and unstable, this has never been a harsher reality.
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EIA: Coal Production, Exports Rise in August
The latest Short Term Energy Outlook from the Energy Information administration indicated coal production in August was the highest measured since October 2015.
U.S. coal companies produced 74 million MMst of coal, eight percent higher than August 2016. The year-to-date total of 528 MMst is now 14 percent higher than last year.
Coal exports have grown as well, with exports for the first six months of the year 55 percent higher than exports over the same time last year. Exports are expected to slow in the coming months, with the forecast of 2017 to reach 21 percent higher than 2016.
The EIA expects the share of utility-scale electricity production from natural gas to fall from 34 percent in 2016 to 31 percent in 2017 due to higher natural gas prices and competition from coal and renewables. Coal will rise from 30 percent last year to 31 percent this year.
The 2018 forecast calls for 31 percent natural gas and 32 percent coal.
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ENERGY DOMINANCE: Ukraine Just Got Its First Shipment Of US Coal
Ukraine received its first shipment of anthracite coal from the U.S. Wednesday, part of an $80 billion deal between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
This shipment carried 62,000 tonnes of the total 700,000 tonnes set to be delivered to Ukraine by the end of the year, the Financial Times reports.
“As agreed with President Trump, first American coal has reached Ukraine. It is a significant contribution to our energy security and a vivid proof of mutually beneficial strategic cooperation between our two nations,” Poroshenko wrote in a Facebook post. “While it continues to steal Ukrainian coal from Ukrainian Donbas, Russia has lost yet another tool for its energy blackmailing.”
Ukraine’s Parliament ousted Poroshenko’s Kremlin-backed predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014. Since then, the country has looked to strengthen ties with Western powers to dilute Russia’s influence, Reuters reports.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry hailed the deal between the U.S. and Ukraine in July.
“In today’s turbulent world, geopolitical turmoil can create uncertainty for nations without access to an abundance of their own natural resources,” Perry said in a statement. “In recent years, Kiev and much of Eastern Europe have been reliant on and beholden to Russia to keep the heat on. That changes now.”
“Partnerships like this are crucial to the path forward to achieve energy dominance,” Perry added.
US coal floods Europe despite continent’s fear about climate change
Coal exports to Europe and Asia are surging despite criticism from countries such as France and China over President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate change agreement, according to new federal data.
Coal exports for making steel and generating electricity rose 58 percent in the first three months of the year compared to the first quarter of 2016, the Energy Information Administration reported this month. The Energy Department’s independent analysis arm said it is not sure how long the trend will last.
The trend is continuing into the second quarter, with exports up 60 percent from a year ago, Reuters reported Friday.
However, the levels are still much lower than the peak exporting days of five years ago.
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Millennium gets permit after appeals deadline passes unchallenged
Cowlitz County officials say the time has passed to file formal challenges of a massive environmental study of the Longview coal terminal. The 11,000-page environmental impact statement written by the state and county drew a record number of public comments from both sides of the coal debate.
But, in a big surprise, the county said a deadline for appealing the EIS expired quietly Friday afternoon with no formal challenges from either side.
Under county code, any appeals of the EIS would have had to coincide with an appeal of the terminal’s first permit, the critical areas permit issued in July. A deadline on appealing the permit and the EIS ended Friday.
The “appeal ship has sailed,” said Ron Malin, senior environmental planner for Cowlitz County. While opponents disagree with this interpretation, Malin said all avenues to appeal the adequacy of the EIS have been exhausted.
And without any appeals to the critical area permit, Millennium now has officially obtained its first permit for the $680 million project.
“We are delighted the permit and the Final Environmental Impact Statement will move forward without challenge,” said Bill Chapman, CEO and president of Millennium. “This confirms the project meets Washington’s strict environmental standards. We are grateful for the outpouring of local community support that has generated a momentum toward construction.”
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