Child coal worker in ChinaA young coal worker in Linfen, Shanxi, China.Photo: Andi808

Cross-posted from Sightline Daily.

One of the nation’s most respected resource economists, Dr. Thomas M. Power, just released a new white paper [PDF] showing that coal exports to China will increase that country’s coal burning and pollution, and decrease investments in energy efficiency.

In a nutshell, Power demonstrates that the planned coal export facilities in the Northwest would add to the supply of coal to China, thereby pushing down the cost of burning it. And because China is highly cost sensitive, even relatively small changes in price could result in significant changes in coal burning. Furthermore, low coal prices in the near term will encourage long term investments in new coal burning facilities that would lock in decades of further demand for coal.

Power’s report provides a direct and evidence-based refutation to coal industry claims that U.S. exports make no difference to foreign coal consumers. The industry’s argument, of course, flies in the face of basic economic principles, not to mention the specific characteristics of China’s energy economy. Now, policymakers have an independent examination of the ways that the export facilities planned for the Northwest will make a difference for China’s pollution, and even for global climate stability.  

The report is 29 pages, but those pressed for time will find a two-page executive summary at the beginning.