Coal

'Political Greenwashing': Obama Sends 'Dirty' Coal To Countries Overseas

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The U.S. coal industry is shipping more and more coal overseas to countries with lax environmental standards.

As President Barack Obama has promised to wean America off "dirty" non-renewable energy, American coal companies have sent more coal abroad in the last six years than ever before.

While the U.S. appears to be cleaning up its act on energy, the carbon pollution is just being shipped elsewhere. It still adds to the CO2 in the atmosphere which affects us all.

The coal industry is hoping to double U.S. exports with three new terminals on the west coast.

A recent analysis shows that coal exports could be reducing the environmental advantage of clean energy in the U.S. by half if not negating it completely.

"Energy exports bit by bit are chipping away at gains we are making on carbon dioxide domestically," Shakeb Afsah, an economist who runs an energy consulting firm in Bethesda, Maryland, told The Courier-Journal.

A 2011 report from the American Lung Association says that burning coal results in hazardous air pollution, releasing acid gases, like hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride; benzene; toluene; dioxins and furans; formaldehyde; lead, arsenic, and other metals; mercury; Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH); and radioactive materials, like radium and uranium.

A 2012 Washington Post article reported that cheap natural gas and new pollution policy was causing the U.S. to burn less coal. In 2000, the country got 52 percent of its electricity from coal. In 2010, that dropped to 45 percent. But even then U.S. coal exports were on the rise.

"These emissions can make breathing difficult and can worsen asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis and other lung diseases," the report says. "These pollutants can cause heart attacks and strokes, lung cancer and other cancers, birth defects and premature death."

Coal exports to Germany have more than doubled since 2008. In 2014, Germany’s carbon emissions increased 1.2 percent.

"This is a classic case of political greenwashing," said Dirk Jansen, a spokesman for the German environmental group BUND. "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."

Norfolk, Virginia, which exports more coal that any other city in the country has already seen sea level rise at one of the fastest rates in the nation.

Sources: The Courier-Journal, Washington Post

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons / 螺钉, OddBloke.ca

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