Location: Seattle, WA

A new report released Tuesday shows proposed coal export terminals in Washington would result in more coal being burned in China. The report’s claims are a direct contradiction to proponents of the coal terminals, who say shipping United States coal to China would have no effect on the country’s reliance on coal power.

The report’s author, economist Thomas M. Power, Professor Emeritus at the University of Montana and Principal at Power Consulting, says that coal exports from the West Coast would increase China’s coal consumption in the short term and would also encourage China to scale back its investments in clean energy and energy efficiency over the next 30 to 50 years.

An influx of cheaper coal shipped from Northwest ports would encourage China to keep its coal-burning power plants open longer; it would also encourage the construction of new coal-fired power plants. Recent history shows that China is responsive to price fluctuations in coal, and that lower costs would almost certainly mean reduced investment in energy efficiency, the report shows.

According to opponents of the coal export facilities proposed in Bellingham and Longview, opening Washington’s ports to coal would jeopardize the state’s status as a national leader in fighting global climate change, among other negative local health and economic impacts in those communities. Washington and Oregon will each phase out their sole coal-fired power plants by 2025, but the amount of coal to be shipped from the proposed facilities would dwarf these accomplishments.

The full white paper and executive summary can be read here.

July 19, 2011