Today The Washington Post reports on the U.S.’s booming coal export industry which has freight cars in Appalachia brimming with coal set for the long journey to energy starved countries like China and India. The Post notes:
In the United States, it is getting harder to license and borrow money to build new coal plants. But Peabody Energy’s chief executive Gregory H. Boyce says foreign demand will sustain mining output. “Coal is the sustainable fuel best able to close the gap of growing demand vs. scarce and expensive alternatives,” he said at a conference last month.
In the developing world, where growth is paramount, there is no thought of shutting off coal, especially when, on average, a person in China emits about one-sixth and an Indian less than one-tenth as many greenhouse gases as an American “Coal will continue to be king in India. There is no way out,” said Kumar, of the Confederation of Indian Industries. “The other choice is asking the country to stay poor. . . . The question is, are we going to allow poverty or allow a little bit of pollution?”
These hard facts beg the question: Which of the following policy frameworks is better for the both the environment and the U.S. economy?
1) New regulations that prevent the construction of new cleaner coal-fired plants in the United States, that in turn make it more economically viable to ship the coal overseas to China and India (which takes carbon emissions to transport), who will then burn the coal in plants that emit more CO2 then new American plants would.
2) Relaxing threats of new regulations so that U.S. utilities can confidently build new cleaner burning coal plants so that more coal can be burned cleaner in the U.S. and without the extra CO2 emissions it takes to ship it half way around the world.