The World on Our Shoulders? The Controversy Over Coal Exportation

May 29, 2012 in GPRX Blog by Zoe Sheinkopf

Are we each responsible for the future of our country, or the future of our world? That’s the real issue in the ongoing controversy over coal exportation.


There are plans for new coal export terminals all along the Washington and Oregon coasts. If the terminals are built, according to a recent Seattle Times article by Craig Welch, 150 million tons of coal will soon leave the West Coast of the US for China every year. That will increase the US’s coal exports to 150% of their current levels. The projects are still up for environmental risk review, but it’s unclear whether the effects of the eventual burning of the coal will be considered. So the question is: is the US responsible for CO2 emitted in China, if the US provides the coal? 


Maybe it’s hypocritical to sell someone else nonrenewable power, when you say you’re trying to reduce your own dependence. But then, maybe it’s hypocritical to deny coal to a neighbor, while using it yourself.
Maybe an even more fundamental question is whether this is a moral decision at all, or merely a matter of supply and demand.


The coal controversy is an issue to watch, and for us youth especially: this is the world in which we’re coming of age. To what degree are we responsible for its preservation?

Photo by Fox Spain, published under Creative Commons license.