By Angela Garrone, Esq.
What has long been thought of as an energy issue primarily affecting the Pacific Northwest is now making its way to the Southeast: coal exportation. While the exportation of coal out of Southeastern ports is nothing new, all signs appear to point to a dramatic increase of coal traffic out of Southeastern export terminals over the next decade.
As highlighted in an earlier blog, the combination of lower gas prices and stricter environmental regulations have led many American utilities to begin decreasing their dependence on coal as a source of domestic electric generation. With natural gas prices expected to stay low throughout 2013, the amount of coal exported from the U.S. is anticipated to grow given current trends.
As exportation becomes a more popular choice for coal producers looking to sell their excess coal on the international market, it will become more important for the public to be aware and environmental advocates to educate themselves about the impacts that exporting coal will have on our region from fugitive dust and a displaced carbon footprint. Ultimately, it seems, we may simply be playing a climate shell game as we cut our coal usage and carbon emissions here in the U.S., only to ship that fuel overseas where it gets burned anyway and added to the global carbon emission budget.
As more U.S. utilities switch from coal to alternative forms of energy generation, the amount of coal exported by the U.S. is expected to rise. Natural gas prices are a predominant driver in this trend, but while prices are comparatively inexpensive in the U.S., they are considerably more expensive than coal in many other countries. Analysts predict that coal prices would have to rise in Europe by roughly $80 per metric ton before natural gas could become price competitive. This discrepancy between national and international natural gas prices, along with the increased industrialization of countries like China and India, accounts for the increasing demand of U.S. coal exports.
The International Energy Agency’s 2011 World Energy Outlook predicts that China will be using 70 percent more energy than the U.S. by 2035 (despite the fact that China’s per capita demand at that time will likely be less than half of that in the U.S.). As a whole, Asia is projected to use an additional billion tons of coal each year by 2016, with China adding almost 160 new coal plants and India adding almost 70. As a result, U.S. exports of coal are predicted to rise over the coming decade as coal consumption decreases in the U.S. Exports in 2012 reached 125 million tons, an amount well beyond the previous record of 113 million tons set in 1981. The more coal being exported each year, the more coal exportation terminals will need to be developed in order to meet growing capacity.
Currently, there are numerous fights being waged in the Pacific Northwest to combat expansion of their coal export terminals–residents are most significantly concerned about the increase in train transportation, which creates fugitive coal dust–a dangerous source of air pollution. In light of the controversy surrounding export terminals in the Northwest, coal companies nationally are hedging their bets and pursuing construction/expansion of terminals in the Southeast to ensure their coal can make its way to international markets. Although no clear connection can be made between a specific coal terminal plan in the Southeast and the delay of terminals in the Pacific Northwest, it is clear that one way or another coal companies are going to find a way to ship their coal overseas.
In 2012, there were some major announcements to expand export capacity in the Gulf Coast. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners announced plans to invest approximately $400 million to expand its Gulf Coast terminal network. Storage company Oiltanking announced it would be developing a new export terminal for coal and pet coke in Port Sulphur, Louisiana and, depending on demand, the terminal could handle 10 million short tons annually.
In July 2012, Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, announced that it would begin using ports in Houston and New Orleans to ship Colorado Powder River Basin coal to international markets. Peabody’s planned expansion would more than double its export capacity along the Gulf Coast–between 5 million and 7 million tons annually from 2014 to 2020. Most of this particular coal is bound for Peabody’s European markets. As part of their Gulf Coast expansion, Peabody has an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad to transport coal from its Colorado mines to its Houston terminals.
The surge in U.S. coal exports is unsettling and should be getting more attention from the public at large and the environmental community in particular. Along with increased air pollution from the transport of coal cross-country in the form of fugitive coal dust, the increase of U.S. coal exports presents us with a philosophical and climate dilemma: even if the U.S. greatly decreases its own dependence on coal generated electricity, is it fair to say that we are actually reducing our carbon footprint if we simply play a shell game by sending coal overseas to supply international coal plants?
We must recognize that in increasing exportation of our domestic coal, the U.S. is actually just exporting its carbon footprint along with its coal. Instead of focusing energy and resources to expand our coal export infrastructure, the U.S. should be concentrating on building our own renewable energy generation resources and implementing robust energy efficiency measures. As long as the U.S. is meeting the international demand for coal, and international natural gas prices remain high, our citizens and environment will continue to see destructive mining practices, like mountaintop removal coal mining, and we will be no closer to lowering global carbon emissions and reducing the destructive impacts of climate change.
Visit EcoWatch’s COAL EXPORTS page for more related news on this topic.
Ulla Reeves, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s regional program director edited and contributed to this post.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A report scheduled for release later Tuesday by Congress' non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the Trump administration undervalues the costs of the climate crisis in order to push deregulation and rollbacks of environmental protections, according to The New York Times.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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