Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 8, 2013

Coal exports

Asia’s gain is America’s loss

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Good news has been hard to come by in recent months for West Virginia’s embattled coal industry. But recent word of a 40 percent increase in coal exports over 2011 is reason for hope.

Export data released last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce shows the Mountain State’s coal exports rose by $2.1 billion to a total of $7.4 billion for 2012. However, the increase in coal exports still wasn’t enough to compensate for a continued decrease in domestic demand.

The Associated Press found that the state’s coal production was still down more than 8 percent in 2012, and the state’s mining industry lost more than 5,000 jobs for the year.

The increase in coal exports is attributed primarily to increased demand for coal from Asia. West Virginia coal exports to China also increased fivefold, or from $93 million in 2011 to $567 million in 2012. And coal exports to Japan increased more than tenfold, or from $29 million to $395 million.

Japan is the world’s second-largest importer of coal. And the recent disruptive floods in Australia, which is the world’s biggest exporter of coal, have also led to increased Asian demand for West Virginia coal.

However, Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow notes that foreign markets are erratic with good years and bad years. Muchow told the AP that officials see coal production decreasing in West Virginia. That shouldn’t be viewed as a surprise considering that the current administration in Washington is strongly anti-coal. In fact, the only thing President Barack Obama repeatedly advocates is wind and solar energy. Obama points to last year’s Superstorm Sandy as evidence of climate change, and as a mandate for America to reduce its carbon footprint.

However, what can we really learn from the new export data. Japan is still burning coal. So is Asia, Australia and China. Their gain is clearly America’s loss.

Instead of embracing our abundantly available fossil fuels, we are increasingly shipping them overseas to countries that either aren’t convinced that the science of climate change is real, or simply aren’t worried about burning coal. That’s a shame. Because there really is no true substitute for domestic demand for coal. But when our nation’s leaders continue to shun coal — and are putting wind and solar energy above clean coal technology — we are in return crippling our chances of achieving true energy independence in America.

A national energy portfolio that largely excludes abundantly available fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas in favor of costly green energy projects is not a well rounded or logical blueprint for energy independence.