Honoring the Coalition’s work
by stopping King Coal’s conveyor belt
By KC GOLDEN
%CODE1%With deals in place to shutter the Boardman and Centralia plants, the Northwest is powering past coal!
The NW Energy Coalition should be incredibly proud of this. The Coalition’s work – the long legacy of achievement in energy efficiency, renewable resources and energy system planning – is what made this transition thinkable, then doable, then done.
King Coal, however, is not taking our progress lying down. They want to take all that coal we’re not going to burn – and 10-20 times more – and ship it to Asia, where burning it will incinerate the planet every bit as effectively as if we burn it ourselves.
We did not invite this madness. It is a crime – a gross violation of the inter-generational contract — that we have to fight it without the benefit of an effective global climate treaty and a national climate policy.
But don’t be distracted or discouraged by those who say, “It’s not our problem. It’s out of our jurisdiction.” They want to mine the stuff in Montana and ship it by train through Missoula and Idaho and Spokane and the Columbia Gorge; up through Longview, Tacoma, the sculpture garden on Seattle’s waterfront, Edmonds, Bellingham. We can talk about pioneering a Northwest clean energy economy ’til we’re blue in the face, but no one will hear us over the rumble of the Global Warming Express.
Let’s be clear on what’s at stake: This is about whether fast-growing Asian economies will have unlimited, easy access to all of the world’s coal supplies (and the Powder River Basin is among the biggest). If the answer is yes, they’ll greenlight the continuing construction of a whole new generation of coal plants (without carbon capture and sequestration), making catastrophic climate disruption inevitable. Game over.
The devastating impacts of climate disruption are falling first and worst on those who can least afford it and did the least to cause it.
The only fair way out of this mess is for the developed nations to take the lead in pioneering a clean energy economy that delivers sustainable, broadly shared prosperity. That’s what NWEC is all about. And it’s the exact opposite of coal export, which would use our region as a staging area for marketing fossil fuel dependence to the global economy.
We can win this. Yes, our opponents are big and bad and mind-bogglingly rich. But we’ve got them on the run, holed up in the mountains with their coal, and this is a crazy, desperate scheme to get their deadly product to market, right through the physical heart of our region. Huh-unh. No. Not in our house. It’s not who we are.
NWEC has played a major role in making this place about innovation, about environmental responsibility, about equity. We can’t be all those things, and be the Ciudad Juarez (thank you Eric de Place) of the global coal trafficking industry. This may not be NWEC’s beat. But as a community, as a movement, as the region that NWEC has had such a profoundly positive role in building, we must stop it.
KC Golden is director of policy and evangelism for Climate Solutions. He served as the NW Energy Coalition’s policy director and executive director in the early 1990s.