It’s astounding to chart the rise in Asian coal consumption of the last decade, with the graph in the middle of this piece no doubt shocking you as it did me. Obviously I understand there are inherently more people in the Asian states, but that rise is obscene in magnitude and actually seems to pick up in speed in the last 2 years, which I personally find very hard to swallow and rather worrying in terms of our future climate. When this is compared with the progress Europe and the US have made in reducing their consumption, it’s simply wrong.
Now the reasoning, or at least a large part of it, is due to the graph you see above, detailing US coal exports for the past 6 years, which has, as of 2011 reached a peak never before experienced, at an all time high of ~107,000 thousand short tonnes. That means that the US is effectively sending it’s generous deposits of domestically produced coal all the way to the other side of the world, for the Asians, and more than likely China to readily absorb and burn. This also accounts for the strangely large drop in consumption by the US, as they forgo burning for selling.
It’s not hard to see that there is a link between this peak-coal export and increased consumption, and of course there are other trade routes and factors adding to this problem, but the fact that the US have actively moved to coal-dominant exportation and yet still harp on about using renewables for a better world, is a sinister and dangerous happening.
With America offloading it’s fossil fuels to outside parties who welcome the chance to avoid mining their own or tarnishing their environmental reputation, they can happily progress in the knowledge that they are not burning it themselves. What use is introducing green technology if the coal that should be left in the ground is simply making its way round the world, dropping of carbon as it travels?
This is the unfortunate reality these graphs and studies demonstrate, and is no doubt a practice being carried out by many other developed nations. It is likely driven by a more gas-centered economy in the modern world, with oil and coal looked down upon as the dirty and irresponsible fuels that they are; for America to find a way to free up these abundant reserves without actually using them, at the same time making a tidy profit, it’s no surprise they snapped up the chance.
For how long this will go on for is unknown. Other nations may become wise to this trick and begin finger-pointing the Obama administration and America’s fossil fuel industries. However these fingers should also be turned on the receiving end of things, at the Asia’s. Solar and wind are booming in this part of the world, and have been the subject of many headlines, but this importation of coal must be stemmed if real climate progress is to be made. Without a carbon tax, dropping your coal off in another country and letting them deal with the consequences will end up biting all of us in the *** in the end.