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If there is a “War on Coal”, would the Export-Import Bank be tried as traitors?

October 17th, 2013 · No Comments

The fossil fuel industry — with predictable political allies — has repeatedly sought to convince Americans (via an all-too often gullible media) that the Obama Administration is engaged on a “War on Coal” (.  While reasonable analysis would suggest that one can say that it is actually ‘coal industrial interests’ that is engaged in warfare on humanity, the Administration’s on-again, off-again actions to address health and environmental (including global warming) implications from the mining, transport, and burning of coal is hard to describe honestly as a “war”.  With an “all of the above” strategy that includes investing in coal-fired electricity carbon capture and storage along with rather slow development of regulation that Supreme Court decisions have said should occur, the Obama Administration has — if anything — been engaged in a Phony War on coal‘s threat to Americans (both living and unborn).

If there were an actual, serious ‘war on coal’, one would expect that the Administration — in face of a global warming denying majority in the House — would be going with all guns blazing, using every possible tool for leverage to demolish the coal industry.  This, however, does not seem to be the case. Let’s use one case to illuminate this: the Export-Import Bank’s continued subsidy of coal exports.

In his climate speech at Georgetown University, President Obama had this this to say:

Today, I’m calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas — (applause) — unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity.  And I urge other countries to join this effort.

“An end of public financing for new coal plants overseas …”

That is a rather clear statement.

There is a part of the Administration that is directly involved in the “public financing” of international projects and activities: the Export-Import Bank.

If the Administration has been engaged in a “war on coal”, the Export-Import Bank clearly doesn’t seem to have received the notice of a declaration of war.  Export-Import Bank funding for fossil fuel projects has shot up from just under $3 million in fiscal year 2009 to $9.6 billion in 2012.

In fiscal year 2011, Ex-Im Bank financed the 3,960 megawatt Sasan coal power project in India and 4,800 megawatt Kusile coal power project in South Africa. Sasan and Kusile will rank among the world’s largest coal power projects with combined 56.9 million tons of annual CO2 emissions, plus extensive pollution to local water and air, causing community displacement and health problems that potentially include increased rates of cardiopulmonary diseases and cancer deaths.

In the same time period, under the Obama Administration, the Export-Import Bank has essentially remain unchanged in its support for one of the fastest growing sectors in international business activity: clean-energy projects and technologies.

As an example of a troubling ExIm Bank project, we need look no further than the hills of Appalachia. As the mountains of West Virginia disappear via mountain-top removal and the environmental/health impacts mount, The Ex-Im Bank is subsidizing XCoal Energy and Resources export of Appalachian coal to India.  In this case, not only is American territory getting devastated but we– the taxpayers — are subsidizing another nation’s costs to move coal half-way around the world to burn it in dirty plants. This subsidy therefore helps undercut efforts to foster a cleaner energy future in India.  When it comes to this situation, the ExIm Bank is being sued for not sufficiently reviewing the effects on health and the environment when making the loan.

The Export Import Bank continues to assist the dirtiest energy solutions secure business around the globe while giving clean energy solutions short shrift.  This not only helps foster continued environmental damage (from local impacts from mountain top removal in Appalachia to global impacts like increased mercury in the food stream and increased climate change risks), but undercuts the ability of American clean energy firms to secure a stronger place in this 21st economic powerhouse arena.

It’s clear from these projects that the administration needs to take a closer look at the Ex-Im Bank’s activities. Their subsidies aren’t just harming foreign nations and natural habitats; they’re also doing damage to our businesses and natural resources here at home.

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Tags: Energy · Obama Administration