We can do better than coal export to build our region’s economy. Coal companies stand to make huge profits. China would get the energy. The Northwest would pay the price.
Washington and Oregon have long and proud history of economic innovation, and our region already supports thousands of high-tech and clean energy jobs that can’t be outsourced. We should focus on building those industries – not supporting and becoming a middleman in the world’s dying industries of the past like dirty coal. Pioneering a sustainable prosperity is both our responsibility and one of our greatest economic opportunities; Coal export would bind us – economically, politically, and morally – to the opposite path: a global economic development strategy that is fundamentally incompatible with energy security and climate stability.
Making coal a major export product from Washington state raises serious questions about its impact on our economy – and the economics of coal.
- Coal export terminals employ surprisingly few people – less than many other commodities – and in the process cover acres of desirable waterfront land with piles of coal.
- Train traffic from the proposed coal export terminals would pose serious risks to other economic drivers – in Bellingham, essentially cutting off the new waterfront development for hours of the day.
- Coal hasn’t panned out as an economic boom for West Coast cities that have tried exporting it in the past. Both Portland and Los Angeles lost millions on unsuccessful coal terminal projects (in the 1980s and 1990s respectively).
- By increasing the supply of coal available in growing markets, price will go down, thus making coal more affordable and coal-fired power plants a more desirable choice for China.
Learn more about coal export’s impact on our economy:
- Increased Coal Train Traffic and Real Estate Values | October 2012 | The Eastman Company
- Coal Costs: Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy | August 2011 | American Economic Association
- Coal Export: The Greenhouse Gas Impact of Exporting Coal from the West Coast| July 2011 | Sightline Institute
- Coal Export: A History of Failure for Western Ports | August 2011 | Sightline Institute and Columbia Riverkeeper
- Coal: Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal | February 2011 | Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences Transportation
- Coal Dust: A Rail Emission Study: Fugitive Coal Dust Assessment and Mitigation| September 1996 | Virginia DEQ conference
- Exporting Powder River Basin Coal: Risks and Costs | October 2011 | WORC
- National Rail Freight Infrastructure Capacity and Investment Study | September 2007 | Association of American Railroads