The Energy Blog – Will Washington State Enable China’s Use of Coal?

By Andy Silber

The Pacific Northwest: China’s enabler to Climate Destruction

We in the Seattle and Washington are doing all we can to reduce climate destroy emissions, right? We have a utility that is carbon neutral: we started the effort for Cities to commit to reaching the Kyoto standards; the Prius/Hummer ratio is through the roof; we recycle and shop at farmer’s markets and on and on and on.

One area where we are pretty good (but not as good as you might think) is the burning of coal. There’s only one coal plant in Washington State, though power is imported to Washington from plants outside the state. We also have a law on the books that makes it impossible to build a coal fired power plant without sequestration (an unproven technology): this law was sited when a permit to build a coal/coke fired power plant was denied. We also have a renewable energy portfolio standard that requires utilities to get 15% of their power from non-hydro renewables by 2020, creating a large market for wind, solar and other clean sources of power and reducing the market for coal and natural gas.

On the federal level very little is happening and part of the reason (or maybe it is better explained as an excuse) is that China is building a huge number of coal-fired plants. China has large coal deposits and it also is importing large amounts of coal from Australia (which is ironic since Australia has already been hard hit by climate change). But China’s industrial maw can’t be fed by just China and Australia, so they’re looking for a way to burn the coal that we aren’t buying anymore. It’s ironic that all of our efforts to stop the burning of coal here just creates a buying opportunity for China.

But we can do something about it. For the coal to get from the mines in Montana to China it needs to cross Washington and there needs to be a port built to handle it. Such a port is purposed for Cowlitz County. All of our efforts could easily be erased by building this port. We all need to contact Governor Gregoire and ask her to stop this from happening.

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