Don Steinke

Portland, OR

#1 Dec 1, 2012
Will coal exports help or hurt the economy?

That depends on who you ask.

The scientific consensus says that burning large amounts of coal will harm the oceans and destabilize the climate. A scientific minority says that burning this much coal will not harm the oceans or destabilize the climate.

You’d think that in the face of scientific uncertainty, the Port of St. Helens would err on the side of caution. They’ve taken the extreme position that burning large amounts of coal has no consequences.

For ten years, the scientific consensus has asserted that continually releasing extra CO2 to the atmosphere will lead to more acidic and warmer oceans. These effects will cause major economic harm.

At a recent marine conference in Seattle, the shellfish industry was lamenting the gradual acidification of the oceans leading to failure to thrive among shell-fish. This industry provides 3000 jobs and a wonderful supply of crab.

The scientific consensus asserts that warmer oceans leads to stronger storms like Sandy. The benefits of a few jobs in the coal barging proposal will pale compared to the $71 billion price tag of Sandy.

Greenhouse gases warm the oceans. Water expands as it warms, thus leading to rising sea-levels. Portland and Columbia City may experience more frequent floods.

The decision of the Port of St. Helens to export coal is in direct opposition to everything we are doing in Oregon, and all of America, to transition away from coal. The Port of St. Helens wants to send the coal we are not burning to Asia.

The coal barging proposal will be followed by many other coal export proposals. If all are approved, the total rail traffic through the Gorge will equal 36 miles of full coal trains per day, maybe for 50 years.

Since 2003, Rhizhao China has required all new construction to have solar hot-water-heaters. If China doesn’t get our coal, they will have greater incentive to expand that program.

No one really knows the risk of expanded dependence on coal. That is why the Port of St. Helens should stop until they know it is safe.

From Don Steinke
Vancouver, WA

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