The United States is poised to break another record. It doesn’t involve gains in renewable energy. Rather, some would view it as a defeat. The U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts a record year for coal exports that will topple the previous record from 1981. If the prediction holds, the United States will export 125 million tons of coal.
The EIA figures show steam coal as the driving force behind the increase. Experts group coal as either metallurgical coal or steam coal. The former is used for production, while the latter provides energy. It is clear to see that the U.S. carbon dioxide emissions problem is merely being shifted to abroad.
The bulk of exports to Asia and Europe involve metallurgical coal. However, the rise in exports shows an increase in demand for steam coal. While the United States seeks to curb coal use, the international community is embracing it.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Lowering greenhouse gas emissions in the United States matters little if they increase elsewhere. Increases in coal exports point to the evolving dynamics of climate change. Coal is not the only concern. Natural gas exports are also on the rise.
The unstable economy is fueling this shift. Faced with financial woes of an unbelievable nature, nations are faced with literally survival-like decisions. The question becomes, how do countries solve the immediate issues of threatened economies despite the growing threats of climate change?
The Politics of Coal
The United States has the greatest known and recoverable coal reserves in the world. It has nearly twice that of Russia, the second top source. Coal gives the United States a powerful political tool. The stability of the country gives it another advantage as a better partner.
Climate change is the most politically-charged environmental issue of the modern day. What other environmental cause inspires believers and skeptics?
With an unstable economy, the United States cannot simply close coal plants and ignore the resource. The reality is that the country will continue to export coal and meet the demands that it attempts to ignore on its own soil. In light of these facts, we have to ask if we are making any true headway with climate change?