Leaders Ask Why We’re Exporting Fossil Fuels

by Jessica Goad, cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green

The “battle over energy exports is intensifying” and at the same time we have no coherent national export policy were the primary takeaways from an event called “Power Play:  Fossil Fuels and U.S. Export Strategy” held this morning at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.  Coal, refined petroleum products from tar sands, and natural gas are currently being exported to hungry overseas markets, and the event was designed to look at the implications of these decisions.

Panelists Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA)  bemoaned the fact that the United States does not have a national strategy on exports.  Wyden accused the country of being “on autopilot” to an energy export policy, which could have tremendous economic, social, and environmental consequences.  He expanded:

So I have been somebody who’s been expansionist on trade and think that we ought to have freer trade, have fairer trade, but we also need to have smarter trade.  And allowing energy producers—we haven’t really touched on this—to trade away our international competitiveness and our energy independence by exporting the resources right now without thinking through the implications here of what it means for consumers and our companies doesn’t strike me as a smart trade policy.

Watch it:

As the price of natural gas continues to plummet, pressure to export it as liquefied natural gas has increased, and last year the U.S. was a net exporter of refined petroleum products for the first time since 1949.  As well, the coal industry is preparing to significantly increase exports of American coal overseas.  In response to these trends, the members detailed four critical areas that could be impacted by exports, which they believe need more careful consideration:  domestic energy, national security, consumer prices, and environmental impacts.

A second panel addressed different perspectives on coal exports.  Panelists represented the energy finance industry, Pacific Northwest residents impacted by coal export traffic and terminals, landowners concerned about the impacts of mining, and a labor and environmental alliance.

Markey, who released a report at the event entitled “Drill Here, Sell There, Pay More,” summed up the need for serious thinking on exports by saying:

We should first decide what we want to do for the United States of America.

Jessica Goad is Manager of Research and Outreach for the Center for American Progress Action Fund. This piece was originally published at ThinkProgress Green.

JR:  I’ll look at the environmental impacts of gas exports in a later post.  See also “Coal Exports Are Bigger Threat Than Tar Sands Pipeline.”

3 Responses to Leaders Ask Why We’re Exporting Fossil Fuels

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    This shows the political strength of the coal industry. They won’t even get hit with a carbon tax for coal that is being burned overseas.

    Coal companies such as Peabody are on a suicide mission. They have calculated that it’s worth it (many of them are perfectly aware of the dangers of excess carbon), since a nice house and car this decade mean more to them than a dessicated earth later this century.

    Sooner or later, what’s left of our leadership is going to have to figure out that people who engage in murderous behavior won’t give up without a fight. Attempts to make them feel guilty won’t succeed. They must be scorned and then defeated.

  2. Gnoll110 says:

    @Mike Roddy

    It’s fair that companies don’t pay (as a rebate on export) a carbon price on export fossil fuels. The carbon price needs to be collected in the country where the fossil fuels are burnt, so that country can fund it’s carbon reforms.

    Don’t think ‘evil companies’. Think where does the money need to be spent, and how best to collect the money to fund it.

    Say two tonnes of coal are mined in Australia. One to burn in Australia for power, one to export to China to make steel.

    How to price that carbon?

    1/ Charge two tonne worth of carbon price in Australia, at the coal mine.
    This increases the cost of Australia’s dirty power, encouraging people to install insulation, put up solar panels etc.

    2/ Rebate the carbon price on the export tonne, at port of exit. This is so the importing nation can charge it when it arrives there.

    3/ Charge one tonne worth of carbon price in China, at the port of entry. This increases the cost of China’s dirty steel, encouraging steel makers for move to say arc technology and charcoal (which is Bio carbon and thus doesn’t attract a carbon price).

    So what’s needed.
    A carbon price on fossil fuel carbon, at mine, well head or port of entry.
    A carbon rebate on fossil fuel carbon, at port of exit.
    Carbon tariffs on imports from countries that don’t have a carbon price.
    Carbon rebate on export to countries that don’t have a carbon price.

    Remember we’re still in a pre global agreement world, so all any country can do is change it’s internal economic dynamics to fund it own internal reforms. To try for more is to incur the early movers (pre cooperation agreement) disadvantage from the Tragedy of the Commons.

  3. Leif says:

    As long as capitalism and corporations, (I should say Capitalism and Corporations, C/C, as corporations are now “people”), are allowed to profit from the suffering of others nothing will change. Speculators are allowed to profit from food shortages and the starvation of people. The ecocidal fossil industry can profit from the pollution of the commons. The very air, water, soil, and oceans that “We” and Earth’s life support systems depend. To the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year, a goodly chunk even tax subsidized to boot. Think with that much motivation to you and yours that you might be tempted to look the other way if evidence collected by climatologists, oceanographers, universities and others start pointing the finger at you for the destruction of all?

    It is long past time that “We the People” teach the “new kid” on the block how to play nice with others. Man made the rules in the first place, they are not written in stone. Lobbyist massaged the rules to benefit their employer. (ROI for lobby expenses pay back ~40 to 1 and are tax deductible as well.) What does you bank pay you? Where would you invest? In essence, “We the People” demand that C/C lie to us to maximize profits! Is that any way to run an economy?

    Take the profit out of the pollution of the commons and all would stop. Obama owes it to us to have a bare knuckled discussion with the new Corpro-People Kid out back with “We the People” in attendance. System change, not climate change!