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As US Cleans Its Energy Mix, It Ships Coal Problems Overseas

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the not-my-problem dept.

Earth 275

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Thomas K. Grose reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that greenhouse gas emissions in the US have fallen 8 percent from their 2007 peak to 6,703 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, due largely to the drop in coal-fired electricity which in 2012 generated 37.4 percent of US electricity, down from 50 percent in 2005. But don't celebrate just yet. A major side effect of that cleaner air in the US has been the further darkening of skies over Europe and Asia as US coal producers have been shipping the most carbon-intensive fuel to energy-hungry markets overseas. US coal exports to China were on track to double last year and demand for US metallurgical coal, the high-heat content coking coal that is used for steelmaking, is so great in Asia that shipments make a round-the-world journey from Appalachia as they are sent by train to the port of Baltimore, where they steam to sea through the Chesapeake Bay, then south across the Atlantic Ocean and around Africa's Cape of Good Hope to reach Asian ports. The Tyndall Center study estimates that the burning of all that exported coal could erase fully half the gains the United States has made in reducing carbon emissions and if the trend continues, the dramatic changes in energy use in the United States — in particular, the switch from coal to newly abundant natural gas for generating electricity — will have only a modest impact on global warming, observers warn. 'Without a meaningful cap on global carbon emissions, the exploitation of shale gas reserves is likely to increase total emissions,' write Dr John Broderick and Prof Kevin Anderson. 'For this not to be the case, consumption of displaced fuels must be reduced globally and remain suppressed indefinitely; in effect displaced coal must stay in the ground (PDF).'"

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NIMBY... (1, Offtopic)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202217)

O-8.

Re:NIMBY... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202373)

PLEASE put a Nuke plant in my backyard.

Worst case scenario, the plant melts down, and I get relocated. Boo hoo. In exchange, I get a 100% change of not having to breathe coal ash, or any other noxious byproducts of coal burning plants. And the CO2 produced by a nuclear plant is negligible, basically non-existent compared to even 'clean' natural gas'.

I like those odds.

And nuclear waste? Use it to generate power, dipshits. The more radioactive the waste, the hotter it is, and the more useful it is to generate power. Throw it in a pool, insulate it, and use it as a heat source for a sterling engine or something...

Re:NIMBY... (1, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202447)

You have a remarkably stupid idea of what "worst case" means.

Re:NIMBY... (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202459)

Why is that?

Assuming he is not on the plant site that is exactly what would happen. People in the surrounding areas would be relocated.

Of course you could go look at what happens when a coal slurry pond breaks.

Re:NIMBY... (0)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202717)

There are higher rates than normal of thyroid cancer in people who where under 18 when they were evacuated from the high contamination zone of Chernobyl in 1986. Since that actually happened we have a lower bound on worst case that is already worse than "I will have to move".

The worst case scenario of some other system is irrelevant to how bad the worst case of a nuclear power plant is. It is relevant to determining which is a better choice, but the "worst case" scenario is usually irrelevant to such a decision anyway.

That a coal plant will also impact the health of the locals is also irrelevant, for the same reason, the "worst case" is solely about the thing being looked at and not relative to alternatives.

Re:NIMBY... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203009)

Being that thyroid cancer is highly treatable, I would say the loss of property is worse.

The worst case of alternatives is relevant in that it can be useful to compare them to establish what options have such bad worst cases they are not worth risking.

Re:NIMBY... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203075)

How do you know that the higher incidence of thyroid cancer is not merely due to more people getting tested for thyroid cancer as a result of concern for radiation exposure? Hint - it actually is. Thyroid cancer rates among Pripyat evacuees is higher than other Ukrainian populations without access to high level medicine but is similar to those of US and Western Europe.

Re:NIMBY... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203213)

There are higher rates than normal of thyroid cancer in people who where under 18 when they were evacuated from the high contamination zone of Chernobyl in 1986.

You mean the contamination zone caused by a reckless experiment on a reactor that didn't have a containment building and would never ever be built today and, even in the late 70's when it was built, was recognized as unsafe?

Re:NIMBY... (3, Interesting)

delt0r (999393) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203229)

Chernobyl again. Really. TMI is a better example. If i was to design a plant that would be as close as possible to being a massive dirty bomb that generated electricity,it would still be safer than Chernobyl. It didn't/doesn't even have a containment building. Something that everything else (even other Russian designs) have.

Chernobyl is an example of just how much the former USSR didn't care for anyone or anything in the name of the cold war. That design was about getting the plutonium out fast and nothing else.

A better example of a worse case for most other designs is Fukushima. Bad. Yes. Very bad in fact. But much more localized than Chernobyl. However it did demonstrate that you just can't trust profit motive at any level, or the collective lack of responsibly felt by individuals in a corporation.

Re:NIMBY... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202495)

You have a remarkably stupid idea of what "worst case" means.

Really? Show me one fatality to anybody as a result of a problem at a Nuclear Plant that wasn't an on-site worker.

I think they have exactly the right perspective on 'worst case'... Unless you mean 'worst case, an asteroid hits' or 'worst case, tsunami will flood your house and it will get a pathetically low dusting of radioactivity as a result', or other shit that's pointless to worry about...

Re:NIMBY... (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202877)

Worst case means worst case. Something worse than a Chernobyl style dumping of radioactive material into the lungs of the nearby residents, since it's pretty unlikely we've actually experienced the absolute worst case scenario.

And worst case is always pointless to worry about, that's irrelevant to taking a punt at how bad that case might be.

Let's Get Real (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203279)

See thyroid cancer. [wikipedia.org]

See yellow line on graph depicting Chernobyl children as adults. [wikipedia.org]

Start at page 16. [iaea.org]

Plus we won't bother discussing that hundreds of square miles around the area remain off limits due to the continued threat of radiation poisoning.

Despite routinely traveling and working within 2km of a 40 year old reactor, I have no phobias regarding nuclear power. But, to suggest that there have been no deaths, let alone injuries and cancers, is a bald faced troll.

Nuclear power has numerous inherent and extreme dangers. Whether or not we can mitigate them effectively does not mean that the dangers do not exist.

Two years on, the Fukushima exclusion zone [meti.go.jp] still exceeds a 20km radius. It will be 20 years before we see some of the effects form that accident and there will be detractors saying that the illnesses are unrelated despite a clear correlation and highly likely causation.

Re:NIMBY... (2, Informative)

jythie (914043) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202519)

On the other hand, your home owner's insurance costs jump significantly. Living near a nuclear plant is surprisingly expensive.

Re:NIMBY... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202837)

Not really, take a look at the fine print on your own policy, most (if not all) insurance companies won't cover you for nuclear contamination

Re:NIMBY... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202851)

Bullshit. I live less than 5 miles from the oldest active nuclear plant in the country, and it has absolutely no effect on homeowner's insurance rates. You know what does? Having a pool with a diving board or a trampoline.

Re:NIMBY... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202961)

A pool with a trampoline would be 100% awesome. You would have girls in bikinis jumping up and down...

I'll be in my bunk.

Re:NIMBY... (2)

rickb928 (945187) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203019)

...Or a dog, particularly certain species.

Insurance companies are evil, but they are also not stupid.

Re:NIMBY... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202673)

Throw it in a pool, insulate it, and use it as a heat source for a sterling engine or something...

Remind me never to go swimming in your heated pool. Not that you'd have room for one with a nuclear power plant in your backyard.

Relevent (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202811)

You would be getting less radiation in the pool than where you are now. Oblig: Spent Fuel Pool [xkcd.com]

Re:Relevent (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203023)

I apologize to AC, I would go swimming in his slightly-heated swimming pool anytime. Although I have heard AC suggest some pretty sick shit before. Maybe not.

Re:Relevent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203129)

Tis a strange existence. Being a dedicated AC for over a decade. It makes it much harder to be noticed by others. Yet it ensures those that do notice will be the few that value the message instead of the sender.

Re:NIMBY... (4, Interesting)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202853)

You really need to start reading What if? [xkcd.com] .

Swimming to the bottom, touching your elbows to a fresh fuel canister, and immediately swimming back up would probably be enough to kill you.
Yet outside the outer boundary, you could swim around as long as you wanted—the dose from the core would be less than the normal background dose you get walking around. In fact, as long as you were underwater, you would be shielded from most of that normal background dose. You may actually receive a lower dose of radiation treading water in a spent fuel pool than walking around on the street.

Re:NIMBY... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202777)

Where you expect to be relocated? One of those Fema trailers? And the Gov't has an excellent job with dealing with disasters, Katrina, Sandy, etc). You got it all figured out! Ask the Japanese about there relocation program!

Nuclear power makes Coal look like a clean air filtration system. There are millions of tons of highly radioactive spent fuel rods and water with no place to go. All it will take is a grid down for more than three days for the US to nuke itself, since Power plants only keep three days of diesel needed to keep the spent fuel pools from boiling. Consider that an atomic bomb has a mass of fissible material measured in kilograms, The Average US spent fuel pool has a mass measured in kilotons. A city is better off getting hit with a Nuke bomb than it is if its Spent fuel pool catches on fire.

" The more radioactive the waste, the hotter it is, and the more useful it is to generate power."
You're an idiot!
"Throw it in a pool, insulate it, and use it as a heat source"
How about we throw you in to the pool. You can use it as your personal sauna!

You must have a big back yard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203071)

And be doing f all with it if you can

a) fit in a nuclear power station
b) it be far enough away from neighbours that may not want one
c) not have the use of this land changed over to their use.

I suggest your better move is to move to where there is a nuclear plant, rather than decide for your neighbourhood that they will have one.

Re:NIMBY... (5, Interesting)

SpaceMonkies (2868125) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203093)

The US drop is because of the drop in Nat Gas prices, not wind turbines or Solar, etc. Both Germany and Denmark have installed many times the $ investment per capita in 'green' energy that the US has done, to no effect. In fact Germany is increasing coal consumption and moving to coal based electricity. In short the green energy revolution has failed, where a simple price change on gas has worked. Pollution is caused by the burners, not the diggers. You can bet that US coal is extracted in a safer, cleaner way than almost all other coal on the planet. If coal is to be burned, then US coal is the best way to do it.

Always (0)

sycodon (149926) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202221)

Seems people always manage to find a way to make something the fault of the U.S.

It's like having a bitch of a wife that makes everything your fault.

Re:Always (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202269)

It's like having a bitch of a wife that makes everything your fault.

Seeing as she's still your wife, I guess that makes you the bitch, not her.

Re:Always (4, Funny)

invid (163714) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202277)

The title of the article should have been America Exports Black Energy Death Throughout the Globe, Condemning Humanity to Extinction

Re:Always (2)

sycodon (149926) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202301)

Nice.

Don't forget, Women and Children Hit Hardest

Re:Always (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202337)

I'm surprised they couldn't work in how it's bush's fault.

Re:Always (4, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202701)

Don't forget, Women and Children Hit Hardest

That's preposterous: There's no way a 6-year-old can hit harder than a grown man.

Re:Always (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203113)

Randomly select the 6-year old from the general population, and randomly select the grown man from the slashdot demographic.

We, sir, have a bet.

Re:Always (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202343)

America Exports Black Energy Death Throughout the Globe, Condemning Humanity to Extinction

That's the weirdest title for a story about Michael Jackson's death that I've ever read.

Re:Always (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202425)

The title of the article should have been America Exports Black Energy Death Throughout the Globe, Condemning Humanity to Extinction

And I say we're just getting to the root cause of androgenic climate change.

Re:Always (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202505)

Indeed, it's like blaming a gun store owner for a murder one of his customers committed. We don't tell you what to do with your coal, we just sell it.

Re:Always (4, Insightful)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202521)

I have to agree. We're switching to alternatives and the coal miners are now exporting. That's good from a CO2 perspective and from a trade deficit perspective. We've got more green energy, which is almost universally good. What? You thought all those coal mines were just going to shut down? No, that'll take longer. If ever.

Listen people, if you forecast nothing but doom and gloom, EVEN WHEN THERE IS GOOD NEWS, then people are going to become jaded to your forecasts. They're going to assume that everything you report on and forecast has one hell of a negative nancy bias. And their assumption is going to be correct. So buck up me kiddo, things are looking up.

I mean, jesus... 50% to 35% in 5 years? Damn. I didn't think our power structure was that nimble.

Re:Always (1)

delt0r (999393) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203303)

Listen people, if you forecast nothing but doom and gloom, EVEN WHEN THERE IS GOOD NEWS, then people are going to become jaded to your forecasts.

Not true. People *switch* by choice to news stories that are doom and gloom. As a collective that is the news we want which is why we get it.

Re:Always (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202593)

And why is it that some people always manage to use this defense every single time the US is criticized for anything?

The US is the one nation that is beyond reproach, it seems, because only unwashed hippiecommienazis and filthy arab scum would dare say anything bad about the mighty US.

Some of you chestbeaters are in danger of breaking ribs.

Re:Always (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203191)

The US is the one nation that is beyond reproach

Quite the opposite on Slashdot, actually, if you haven't noticed. OP's opinion is the rare one among the aggregate of comments in every US related /. story.

Re:Always (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202655)

Seems people always manage to find a way to make something the fault of the U.S.

It's like having a bitch of a wife that makes everything your fault.

The US wants to have a heavy influence (which is a form of power) over the rest of the world. It also tends to act like the world's police.

Maybe, just maybe, increased power, influence, and prestige actually should come with increased responsibility and scrutiny.

It's not necessarily "anti-US" sentiment.

Re:Always (1)

sycodon (149926) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202823)

Actually, my comments was aimed at the home grown, self flagellating folks like Hugh Pickens. They find every cloud in a silver lining. If poverty were solved for 99.9999% of the people here, they'd find that last .00001 percent and indict the entire nation for "failing the people".

Frankly, I don't think most folks outside of the U.S. pay much attention to us or cares...unless Obama is shooting a missile up their butts.

Trying really hard... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202247)

It seems like they're trying really hard in this article to make it seem like the reduction of coal in the US will have no effect, while not being able to escape the fact that it does. For example, they use phrases like:

... could erase fully half the gains the United States has made ...

"fully half...," why not just say half? because fully half sounds worse.

will have only a modest impact on global warming

"only a modest impact...," but still an impact. I don't want to downplay the issue, but I really do think they're overplaying it. Rather than having a article that is based in fact, we get this apparently biased piece of journalism that brings to question the integrity of the article.

Re:Trying really hard... (1, Insightful)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202559)

Yeah, "a modest impact", hell, if we somehow eliminated coal all-together it might only have a modest impact. I believe the whole "how much are we going to have to change, and for what results?" is still one of those topics that's up for debate. Real meaningful debate, not the mindless droning of the politicians who still can't accept that the environmentalists were right about something.

Re:Trying really hard... (5, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202575)

Not to mention the entire slant of the article trying to blame the US for other countries' energy consumption appetites.

How about "As the US succeeds at cleaning its energy mix, other countries using the coal instead."?

But that might make us out to be something other than the Great Satan, surely?

Re:Trying really hard... (4, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202983)

Agreed. When the US burns oil they don't blame whoever sold it to us, and that seems appropriate. It makes sense to regulate pollution-production at the point where it becomes pollution.

And does metallurgical use of coal actually produce much in the way of Greenhouse gases? Companies aren't going to have super-high-quality coal shipped all the way around the world just to feed some fire that could just be as easily fed with cheaper local fuel. That is a low-impurity source of carbon that is going to end up getting incorporated into the steel itself - it is a raw material, not a fuel. The only way that carbon will end up in the atmosphere is if somebody burns the resulting girders. I'm sure some of it gets lost during manufacture, but companies already have incentive to minimize that as much as possible if they're paying so much to acquire it.

The same is true of oil used to make plastics and other petrochemicals. If you burn oil as fuel it produces greenhouse gases, but there are lots of uses for oil which do not release much CO2 into the atmosphere, and for these uses companies already have lots of incentive to minimize waste (it is expensive to dispose of under a proper regulatory regime, and it represents mass that could have gone into a useful product that would make money instead of costing money).

So, don't yell at the people producing resources. Yell at the people who are taking valuable materials and just burning them in unclean ways.

Re:Trying really hard... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202839)

No gains, We exported all of our polution to Asia along with tens of millions of american jobs. There are no regulations in Asia, so companies just shifted production out of the US. All that Chinese pollution comes back to the US. We haven't solved nothing. In fact its made it worse since China developed a huge industrial complex, all of it powered using coal, and its increased global emissions since there are 100s of millions in Asia buying cars and other crap.

Exporting Coal is not new. we been doing it for centuries. One of the leading Coal Exporting states never mentioned is Alaska. Alaska ships coal to China and other Asian nations.

Re:Trying really hard... (1)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203055)

It seems like they're trying really hard in this article to make it seem like the reduction of coal in the US will have no effect, while not being able to escape the fact that it does. For example, they use phrases like:

... could erase fully half the gains the United States has made ...

"fully half...," why not just say half? because fully half sounds worse.

will have only a modest impact on global warming

"only a modest impact...," but still an impact. I don't want to downplay the issue, but I really do think they're overplaying it. Rather than having a article that is based in fact, we get this apparently biased piece of journalism that brings to question the integrity of the article.

And why even mention metallurgical coal? The whole idea of coking coal is to drive off as much of the hydrogen and trace impurities while leaving the carbon to be used in making steel. Conflating demand for metallurical coal with coal used for electricity generation makes no sense unless your only goal is to sensationalize.

Cheers,
Dave

Clearly, the US is at fault here (3, Insightful)

pseudofrog (570061) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202255)

China is using more coal. Let's blame America, not the annual movement of tens of millions of people from poverty to the middle class.

Sheesh.

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (1)

akb (39826) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202381)

The middle class in China still emit a fraction of the GHG per capita that the middle class in the US does. Not to mention that a large amount of China's GHG emissions are actually used in the production of goods for export.

There will need to be a real global treaty on GHG emissions under which the US will emit less per capita, China somewhat more per capita, and carbon content of trade will need to be factored in.

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (3, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202429)

The middle class in China still emit a fraction of the GHG per capita that the middle class in the US does.

All the per-capita data I've ever seen does not break out the data by "class" / income bracket. Where are you getting this information from?
=Smidge=

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (3, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202667)

True – but I think it is a reasonable assumption. Factor in that China’s middle class earns about a 1/3 of developed nations – that implies lower energy usage and lower CO2 emissions. I would think this was true even after you factor in that China relies heavily on dirty coal. (Now, start projecting 20 years in the future when middle class income is closer to developed country levels.)

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (4, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202541)

There will need to be a real global treaty on GHG emissions under which the US will emit less per capita, China somewhat more per capita, and carbon content of trade will need to be factored in.

Well, let's see first if that "need" will exist in a few centuries or not. I'll just quote this bit from the abstract [tyndall.ac.uk] of the article that spurred this slashdot article:

There has been a substantial increase in coal exports from the US over this time period (2008-2011) and globally, coal consumption has continued to rise. As we discussed in our previous report (Broderick et al. 2011), without a meaningful cap on global carbon emissions, the exploitation of shale gas reserves is likely to increase total emissions. For this not to be the case, consumption of displaced fuels must be reduced globally and remain suppressed indefinitely; in effect displaced coal must stay in the ground. The availability of shale gas does not guarantee this. Likewise, new renewable generating capacity may cause displacement without guaranteeing that coal is not burned, but it does not directly release carbon dioxide emissions through generation.

Note that natural gas displaced coal consumption in the US (and hence, generate a modest drop in global emissions though overwhelmed by demand for coal in the developing world), but the writer chooses to cast that as "The availability of shale gas doesn't guarantee this." I wager there aren't much in the way of "guarantees" in climatology. The abstract also asserts without proof that a 2C increase in global mean temperature is "dangerous".

Scientists shouldn't be propagandists.

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (1)

JazzLad (935151) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203021)

I've always questioned the usefulness of the expression "a fraction of" except when trying to exaggerate a claim. This is not to say you are doing so, but there is a massive difference between 1/32, 9/10 and 3/2 though they are all valid fractions. I make a fraction of what I made during the Bush administration, fortunately for me the numerator is greater than the denominator in this fraction.

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203037)

The problem with China is GDP output per greenhouse gas emission. It is the one of the worst in the world, AND China has a fast growing economy, already 2nd only to the US in size.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_ratio_of_GDP_to_carbon_dioxide_emissions [wikipedia.org]

For example China emits 5x more greenhouse gasses per $ GDP than the US. And the US is not particularly efficient.

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202407)

... and let's whine about blaming America (which the article didn't do at all).

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (3, Insightful)

theVarangian (1948970) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202469)

China is using more coal. Let's blame America, not the annual movement of tens of millions of people from poverty to the middle class. Sheesh.

America is cleaning up it's energy generation by using marginally cleaner natural gas and sells surplus polluting coal to eager Asian customers. Political pundits in the US then try to sucker the public into believing this is better for the environment.

Some of us are not fooled and call bullshit...

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (5, Insightful)

pseudofrog (570061) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202513)

Everything I've seen says that natural gas is two to three times cleaner than coal. That's not "marginally" cleaner; it's a significant improvement, and it is clearly better for the environment than sticking with coal.

And the US isn't forcing Asian countries to buy coal. They need energy -- China's economy is growing by 10% every year. They've determined that coal is the best choice for now, and this is somehow the US's fault?

I'm not quite sure what you're calling bullshit about. Not everything the US does is necessarily bad.

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (1, Interesting)

theVarangian (1948970) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202679)

Everything I've seen says that natural gas is two to three times cleaner than coal. That's not "marginally" cleaner; it's a significant improvement, and it is clearly better for the environment than sticking with coal.

Does that assessment include environmental damage caused by gas extraction with hydraulic fracturing?

And the US isn't forcing Asian countries to buy coal. They need energy -- China's economy is growing by 10% every year. They've determined that coal is the best choice for now, and this is somehow the US's fault? I'm not quite sure what you're calling bullshit about. Not everything the US does is necessarily bad.

Calling bullshit about it being an improvement to switch to natural gas, extracted by hydraulic fracturing then turning around and selling coal to China and going on about how you are doing wonders for the environment. If the US was serious about this they'd close down the coal mines. I refer you to TFA (And keep in mind that his primary research question was: Has US Shale Gas Reduced CO2 Emissions?

There has been a substantial increase in coal exports from the US over this time period (2008-2011) and globally, coal consumption has continued to rise. As we discussed in our previous report (Broderick et al. 2011), without a meaningful cap on global carbon emissions, the exploitation of shale gas reserves is likely to increase total emissions. For this not to be the case, consumption of displaced fuels must be reduced globally and remain suppressed indefinitely; in effect displaced coal must stay in the ground.

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (5, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202833)

Does that assessment include environmental damage caused by gas extraction with hydraulic fracturing?

Compared to strip mining of coal? That might make the difference even more pronounced.

Calling bullshit about it being an improvement to switch to natural gas, extracted by hydraulic fracturing then turning around and selling coal to China and going on about how you are doing wonders for the environment. If the US was serious about this they'd close down the coal mines. I refer you to TFA (And keep in mind that his primary research question was: Has US Shale Gas Reduced CO2 Emissions?

China will burn coal anyway. Might as well be US coal.

There has been a substantial increase in coal exports from the US over this time period (2008-2011) and globally, coal consumption has continued to rise. As we discussed in our previous report (Broderick et al. 2011), without a meaningful cap on global carbon emissions, the exploitation of shale gas reserves is likely to increase total emissions. For this not to be the case, consumption of displaced fuels must be reduced globally and remain suppressed indefinitely; in effect displaced coal must stay in the ground.

In effect, the author is saying that shale gas reduced carbon dioxide emissions, but someone is still burning US coal. And how can the author claim that shale coal probably will increase total emissions, when it didn't? You really have to wonder when propaganda manages to find its way into the abstract for a research article.

Re:Clearly, the US is at fault here (1)

Flavianoep (1404029) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202603)

It's because the US (i.e. G. W. Bush) did not sign the Kyoto Protocol. If they have done so, they could export the blame for carbon emissions to undeveloped countries, a.k.a. buying carbon credits, while forging decreases in carbon emission by outsourcing it to China, which, in turn, by said protocol, had no obligations because it is an undeveloped country.

But it's okay (1)

IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202257)

3rd world countries get a pass on pollution thanks to the Kyoto Treaty, the pollution isn't really happening.

Meanwhile my electric bill keeps going up.
Thanks US Gov't!

Re:But it's okay (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202393)

The US Gov't did not sign the Kyoto treaty...

Trade Embargos (4, Interesting)

SirDrinksAlot (226001) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202267)

US: Can I get some sweet sweet rare earth metals over here?
China: No you cant have our natural resources.
China: Give us your sweet sweet COAL!!!!!!!
US: Here ya go!

Open markets are amusing. They'll deal with anyone including the ones who won't share their toys.

And "all that exported coal could erase fully half the gains" Sex panther, 60% of the time it works EVERY time.

Re:Trade Embargos (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202731)

Rare earths are – well – rare. (Well, not really – but they are tricky to mine and refine.) Coal is plentiful and easy to mine.

It’s called market structure, not comedy.

Re:Trade Embargos (2)

SirDrinksAlot (226001) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203313)

The coal they're interested in is not for energy (tho that's an extra benefit that the waste energy is used for) it's for steel smelting. High carbon coal as clean as it is in the US to make really high quality steel is pretty difficult to come by otherwise they'd be just digging up their own. So IMO it's the same thing.

Is this supposed to surprise us... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202279)

last I checked... over all, coal was a fairly inexpensive (in upfront money, you can argue long term health costs seperately) form of getting energy, particularly electricity. It stands to reason that economies just starting to take root, such as those in Africa, which cannot afford the more technologically advanced and cleaner technologies available as its just too expensive to set up and get running. We've got a resource that we no longer prefer to use and they want to use it, and so are purchasing it from us... it's not so much 'shipping the problem overseas'... or am I missing something?

Re:Is this supposed to surprise us... (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202749)

No, you have hit the problem square on the head. China and underdeveloped countries have argued for technology transfers in treaty talks to address exactly what you saying.

Obama bankrupts coal (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202305)

Obama, Defender of Union Jobs (except miners, arguably the only job that still requires a union).

Re:Obama bankrupts coal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202409)

By union, he means PAC with forced membership, not a"old school unions"

Re:Obama bankrupts coal (3, Interesting)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202463)

Obama, Defender of Union Jobs (except miners, arguably the only job that still requires a union).

"Bankrupted" by huge demand for exports? Plenty of businesses would be delighted to be bankrupted that way.

Also, US reduction in coal burning has a lot more to due with the cost and supply of natural gas, improved efficiency of new gas generation plants, and their better responsiveness to rapid demand changes vs. coal-fired generation, rather than the reduction of carbon emissions per unit of energy. US utilities do sell their carbon credits, but they'd be increasing natural gas use on its own benefits to them.

Re:Obama bankrupts coal (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202993)

US utilities kept old coal plant for longer then their designed life. This was an intended consequence of the 'Clean air act' which grandfathered old plants.

Open access and power pools (the things that took so much flack for CA) prevent utilities from protecting their incumbent plants any longer. Prior to wholesale open access utilities ran their plants until they fell over. Never mind the economics of fuel. Due to cost base + % they actually made more money when they spent more on fuel.

It was far past the time to retire these plants, regulation was unable to do it (thanks to regulatory capture) but the market fixed it. Yeah, markets!

How the times have changed (1)

pesho (843750) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202307)

US coal exports to China were on track to double last year and demand for US metallurgical coal, the high-heat content coking coal that is used for steelmaking, is so great in Asia that shipments make a round-the-world journey from Appalachia as they are sent by train to the port of Baltimore, where they steam to sea through the Chesapeake Bay, then south across the Atlantic Ocean and around Africa's Cape of Good Hope to reach Asian ports.

All I can say is WOW! Does anybody remember the times when the industrial west was importing cheap raw materials from third world countries to support its manufacturing?

Re:How the times have changed (4, Interesting)

jythie (914043) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202557)

That was generally Europe. The US has always been a net exporter of many raw materials. Compared to other 1st world nations we have a huge amount of land and the (relatively untapped) resources that came with that.

Re:How the times have changed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203067)

All I can say is WOW! Does anybody remember the times when the industrial west was importing cheap raw materials from third world countries to support its manufacturing?

No, because it never happened. North America is rich in almost all natural resources. Coal, oil (we will export more than import by 2015), copper, bauxite, iron, wood, fertile farmland, you name it, we got it. The only times we imported raw materials was because we'd rather export the environmental problems than clean them up.

Re:How the times have changed (1, Insightful)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203083)

All I can say is WOW! Does anybody remember the times when the industrial west was importing cheap raw materials from third world countries to support its manufacturing?

Exactly. The world has changed. Wealthy business owners and the wealthy executives who manage those businesses have figured out that they really don't need the American middle class or working class to sustain their wealth creating machine. In America manufacturers had to comply with a mountain of OHSA regulations, environmental regulations, labor laws that affect how many hours you can drive a worker, and how much you can pay them. Then they figured out that if they moved their operations to totalitarian states there were much fewer environmental, safety, and labors regulations to get in the way, and they got a tax break on the profits they keep locked safely away in offshore havens. They are now learning that they can create their new customer base in the same countries where the work is being done. With the manufacturing demand for materials and energy, it is no surprise that our coal resources are being shipped offshore along with the jobs and welfare of the American people.

But even though our nation's wealth has been stripped and the American workforce has been reduced to servanthood (ie "the service economy"), and we gradually regress to an agrarian economy, we are told that the cause of our problems is the sense of entitlement to things like food stamps to displaced workers and their families (which is often not enough to prevent malnurishment), medicaid for children and their parents (childless adults often do not qualify in some states even if they are critically ill with a curable disease), or the social security that only workers and middle class pay for (earnings over $100k are not subject to any social security taxes). The only solution put forward by the political groups sponsored by wealthy business owners is to lower taxes on the rich - with the presumption that once the rich have more money they will hire American workers and spend money to buy American products. But the world has changed, and only a nation of fools would believe that a change in tax policy is going to magically encourage the wealthy to hire Americans or buy American products. With more money in their pockets the rich will create more jobs in totalitarian countries on the other side of the world and buy more products made in those countries. If the whole planet has to choke in coal ashes from the under-regulated toxic manufacturing processes or greenhouse gases from the diesel fuel used to move the massive amount of goods traveling enormous distances, then that is OK as long as the rich get richer.

From the summary.... It's Metallurgical Coal (4, Informative)

Isca (550291) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202331)

It's not being used for electricity. We hardly make any steel here anymore. Most of it is made in Asia anymore. We have the infrastructure to mine it and ship it out. If it wasn't done here it would be done elsewhere at a slightly higher cost. It has nothing to do with electrical production, it's not used for that. In fact, it's almost twice the cost of other coal per ton so no one would WANT to use it.

Re:From the summary.... It's Metallurgical Coal (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202411)

Yes, I noticed this as well, and it makes the summary rather misleading.

I think there is a concern with "pollution outsourcing", where countries claim to be getting cleaner but they do it just by outsourcing the polluting activities, rather than cleaning them up. This is the case with some European manufacturing firms, for example, which claim to be green... if you only count their within-EU manufacturing activities. You could imagine a similar shift where U.S. energy production gets cleaner just by moving the pollution around, so the same coal gets burned for power, just elsewhere. Then it would be legitimate to question whether there are any real environmental gains happening in such a scenario.

But what's happening here is a little different. It's not economically sensible to ship regular, lower-grade coal for producing electricity all around the world. Coal is extremely bulky and the value per ton of low-grade coal is so low that it doesn't pay off to ship it to China. Especially when China has plenty of its own low-grade coal. What does make economic sense to ship is high-end coal for metallurgy, which is more of a specialty material.

Re:From the summary.... It's Metallurgical Coal (1)

theVarangian (1948970) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202605)

It's not being used for electricity. We hardly make any steel here anymore. Most of it is made in Asia anymore.

About half of world steel production is in Asia, some 11% in the NAFTA area, the rest is made in Europe and Russia with miscellaneous other sources making up the remaining 8%.

Re:From the summary.... It's Metallurgical Coal (5, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202663)

It's not being used for electricity. We hardly make any steel here anymore.

We made a million tons of steel last week... 18 million tons year-to-date. In 2012, we made 5.7% of the worlds steel (88 million tons) - putting us in third place (behind China and Japan) overall. The only European country in the top ten is Germany - which clocks in at #7 with approximately 2%. (Most of the worlds steel is made in Asia and Russia/CIS.)
 
So, yeah, US steel production is a long way down from it's peak, but it's gross ignorance to say we make 'hardly any'.

Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202353)

"The Tyndall Center study estimates that the burning of all that exported coal could erase fully half the gains the United States has made in reducing carbon emissions"

This is a *problem*?! It's still a gain! Sheesh.

Re:Good! (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203163)

Except that the "gains" are not real gains, but rather slowing down the expected increase in carbon emissions as our population and economy grows.

metabolic metaphor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202397)

until we do find another energy source that is as dense and easy to transport as coil and oil are, they will remain the main source of energy for the body of humanity and the emission of carbon dioxide reflects the activity of that body. the only way to drop the greenhouse gas emissions of that body would be to stop that body's activities. so the solution, until the better energy source is found or implemented ( see thorium for one possibility ) will be to drastically reduce the size of that body ( kill people ) or reduce that body's activities ( put everyone back into mud huts and low tech.)

Look at Germany or Denmark as 'Clean Leaders' (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202405)

The US drop is because of the drop in Nat Gas prices, not wind turbines or Solar, etc.

Both Germany and Denmark have installed many times the $ investment per capita in 'green' energy that the US has done, to no effect. In fact Germany is increasing coal consumption and moving to coal based electricity. In short the green energy revolution has failed, where a simple price change on gas has worked.

Pollution is caused by the burners, not the diggers. You can bet that US coal is extracted in a safer, cleaner way than almost all other coal on the planet. If coal is to be burned, then US coal is the best way to do it.

You mean this *wasn't* part of the Kyoto Protocol? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202419)

I thought the entire point of the treaty was for the U.S. to reduce its carbon emissions, while the rest of the planet flagrantly violates their agreements.

Hmm, I guess I'll have to go back and re-read it.

Re:You mean this *wasn't* part of the Kyoto Protoc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202567)

The U.S. never ratified the treaty...

meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202423)

dont burn natural gas because someone else will burn coal ....wtf.... stupid summary hope article was bettter

The Solution is Clear (1)

wanfuse123 (2860713) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202479)

We need to use only 0 emissions energy in the US, We need to implement only new generation IV nuclear reactors, Wind, Solar, we must convert ALL Coal fire plants from to safe LFTR reactors (1.6 Trillion in capital cost) [rawcell.com] , we must recycle all plastic wastes (for the environment sake) and make money at it and produce the fuel for our cars at the same time and increase dramatically the fuel efficiency of the vehicles coming off the assembly line( not impossible we can improve it, we have done it with test vehicles), and we must Institute a System of Air Carbon Capture [rawcell.com] . We can do this with the money made from recycling. We waste 37 million tons of plastic each year in the US ALONE. Worldwide the numbers are huge. That doesn't even get into the fact that sorting out the plastic pays a large portion of the sorting costs of the rest of the trash which can also be recycled. The world produces 500,000,000 tons of waste each year. A large portion of which is plastics. Recycling Waste Can Pay for Air Carbon Capture and for LFTR Capital Conversion Costs [rawcell.com] ! This money would help with the research and development associated with other energy solutions. It would Cost 1.6 Trillion to convert all Coal fire plants to LFTR reactors [rawcell.com] . I have crunched the numbers. India Will Have its' First 500 MW Thorium Reactor Next Year [rawcell.com] . With a Manhattan style project we would be able to solve the problems with Thorium reactors in probably less time than it took to do the Manhattan project (4 years) for less than the 23 billion it would take in today's dollars for that project to be completed. The remaining problem with Thorium reactors is the material for the inner containers, and several solutions have been proposed including replacement modules like car oil filters. After that we should FREELY export our technology to the world which benefits us as well as other nations or as trade for debt to other countries.

pffffft (1)

harvey the nerd (582806) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202507)

Kyoto and CAGW are scams that fueled riches for Soros, fat Al Gore and their private jets. In 2020 we're going to be hitting some really cold weather. Didn't you get the memo?

Re:pffffft (1)

kpoole55 (1102793) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202779)

Are you speaking metaphorically or is this an actual climate prediction? I'd like to see the note.

Re:pffffft (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202969)

There's a well known sixty-year temperature cycle, and we're into the cold half right now. So the odds are pretty good that 2020 will be significantly colder than today.

Energy exports (4, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202595)

USA is exporting energy sources now, so it's exporting oil (refined, gasoline even), coal. While overall production of energy resources in USA is up and the demand is probably lowest in at least a decade because of the dying economy, the prices are also up and while this may seem as a paradox, it's not. It's inflation. Here is what is going to happen if China lets its currency float: renminbi will rise in USD terms and for the Chinese producers and consumers the prices for raw materials, energy and food will drop in their currency and in dollar terms they will rise. So for Americans (and Europeans) it will be increasingly more expensive to buy energy and food and but these resources will be cheaper and cheaper for the Chinese to acquire in the global market.

By the way that's the reason that I was always saying that the Japanese should not devalue their currency, but especially after the tsunami hit and their nuclear power plants were shut down - this only hurts the Japanese as they have to pay higher prices for energy and materials in real terms.

But don't become too excited about the USA having 'shifted its pollution elsewhere', here is the eventuality that is not understood in this by the majority: there is no difference between a pre-industrial economy and a post-industrial one. This concerns everything, from education levels to types of energy used. USA will be exporting high value energy sources and will be using much more polluting energy sources eventually if it doesn't turn around and let the markets work rather than thinking that the government will fix the economic problems that the government has created with all the taxes, regulations, money printing.

Basically this is a temporary effect that the pollution has gone somewhere else, because the production has gone there as well. But as the production goes, so does energy use but also so does value of the money (especially if you keep printing it).

The pollution will return in huge volumes to USA as it will have to re-industrialise, but now it will have to start from nothing again, there is no manufacturing. So there are no modern efficient factories, so much cheaper, less efficient means will be used for everything, from manufacturing to heating your houses and food.

The pollution will come back once the inflation comes out and kills the bonds and the dollar. For now the Americans should be happy that the current European problems are on the front pages of all the news stories. Those problems are immediate, but they are nowhere as big as the American story.

Re:Energy exports (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202965)

The US GDP has not dropped 8%. In fact except for a short dip during the past recession ago it has been increasing at a couple of percent per year. And yes that's inflation adjusted.

http://www.supportingevidence.com/Government/US_GDP_over_time.html [supportingevidence.com]

The reason greenhouse gas emissions are down is the cost of energy has been increasing, triggering conservation, and the low cost of natural gas has caused conversions from higher carbon density fuels.

Re:Energy exports (0)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203045)

GDP is a meaningless number, it has nothing to do with productivity in USA anymore, it includes every bit of consumption and various gov't spending, military, whatever. You better take a look at the trade deficit numbers that USA has been running for over 2 decades now and true money supply.

BTW., whatever the inflation offset that the government numbers use is also completely meaningless, it's reverse engineered to fit the necessary propaganda to try and keep the interest rates low. Of-course the Fed has been buying all new and outstanding Treasury debt for too long now, it's also buying mortgages in USA straight out now (and it shifted the burden of 'insuring' bad mortgages from the bankrupt FHA to F&F at this point, with even more lax lending standards), so for example last month numbers showed that the Americans are spending 3/4 of 1% more on consumption. The silly 'market analysts' are saying this is good news supposedly, because of 'confidence. In reality this is consistent with the 3/4 of 1% increase in inflation in the last month.

Americans are given this line of free credit by the Fed to refinance their mortgages to the tune of 80Billion USD / month (and this number will be rising), and this is used to simply spend more on the goods as their prices are rising, but this puts Americans into more debt while the inflation is supposedly non-existing, however the people are buying less stuff at higher prices.

GDP is meaningless, in war times for example it includes all the bombs and tanks that nobody in their right mind would buy in the free market economy, so the prices are completely artificial, as the gov't basically nationalises the factories to build tanks and there is nothing else happening, as the real goods are rationed. However GDP goes up! So what does that mean? It means that Keynesians point at the war time spending and say: see? That's good economy! Let's do more!

So why not run constant wars and just produce tanks and live on an extremely rationed supply of goods and call that 'economic growth'?

Re:Energy exports (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203109)

US manufacturing is doing fine. What isn't 'doing fine' is blue collar manufacturing jobs.

The Chinese currency won't 'float' all at once. It will be devalued a step at a time.

To use a computer analogy the USA's and China's economies are deadlocked. The USA 'needs' Chinese production. China needs USA markets and needs their American holdings to keep their value (or Chinese banks will fail). Moving the currency peg slow and steady is the only solution. Eventually it will have to float.

Intervention has broken this, market fixes would shock the system. So we are stuck with managed return to markets. I say this knowing there is currently no functioning markets in US treasuries, in Chinese/USA currency exchange or in Chinese heavy industry corporations (state owned).

Re:Energy exports (0)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203175)

There is very little manufacturing without the blue collar manufacturing jobs. All that is done somewhere else, so what is this 'manufacturing that is doing fine' exactly? Because USA is running a trade deficit of over half a trillion dollars a year for decades now. It means on a balance, US economy is producing half a trillion dollars less goods than it consumes. Now that number went down a bit because of raw energy exports, which was the point I made, but raw energy exports don't require all that many blue collar jobs either.

Chinese currency will float against US dollar and that will spell terrible short term (a few years) news for USA as it will be hit with all the inflation that it exported to China (and other places, that will go with China on the float) all at once.

This means US dollar won't buy all that much from China anymore, USA's saving grace IS the raw material, energy and food exports.

USA needs Chinese production, that's true, but China doesn't need USA markets, what does USA give China for its products? Paper. Paper and more paper. Paper that cannot be used to buy anything from USA, and whenever somebody even tries to buy assets inside the continental USA, Congress blocks the deals.

Chinese banks are not Chinese economy, by the way! Whether they fail or not is immaterial to the Chinese economy. While in USA and Europe banks are a gigantic portion of the economy, in China the real economy is productive - manufacturing, mining, agriculture, etc. To say that the banks will fail in China also means that banks will fail in USA and Europe FIRST, because at least China has USD and other currency reserves while America and most of Europe are running huge trade AND account deficits.

Dirty coal plants prevent global warming (1)

moeinvt (851793) | about a year and a half ago | (#43202681)

When Chinese industries burn coal without all of the scrubbers on the smoke stacks, huge amounts of solid particulates, are released into the atmosphere. This will in turn block more sunlight from reaching the surface, thus contributing a cooling effect.

I know, I know; Don't feed the troll, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202925)

Hang on there, Bishop Wiberforce.

You goddam hippiies want to turn this country into frickin' North Korea in order to pump up your China bubble so all the NPR/NatGeo foundation grantees and trust-fund yuppies can have a bigger teat to suck off, and you want ME to get all hand-wringy about the costs of shipping MILLIONS OF TONS of coal halfway round the world?

Get a damned life, please. And get offa my lawn. You want to feel useful, go fund advanced fission and/or fusion. Abolish the Fed. Something.

Grumpy not-so-old man.

LOL - CO2 is not a 'greenhouse gas' (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43202981)

www.climatedepot.com

Why does Slashdot continue to promote this fraudulent meme?

LOL, Denier proud of being an idiot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43203149)

CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

Hell, even Roy Spencer insists it is.

It's the economy, stupid.. (1)

h8sg8s (559966) | about a year and a half ago | (#43203105)

Kill the US economy and emissions go down. Shocking.

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