From: RP Siegel, Triple Pundit, More from this Affiliate
Published August 3, 2012 06:56 AM

The US is now Exporting Coal - is this good?

We all know that the journey to a sustainable existence on this planet is going to be a difficult one. Indeed, it might well be what former Xerox CEO David Kearns said of the company’s quest for quality, "a race without a finish line." I say this because absolute sustainability is an ideal that can only be approached. But we need to accelerate our approach to it if we hope to continue to thrive here for generations to come. There will be difficult choices to make, and priorities to set, many of which, like in today's story, will involve trading off short term and long term benefits.

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At this point, thanks in large part to Wall Street, the game is heavily rigged on the side of the short term, and that is going to have to change if we are to have any hope of averting disaster in the brief time remaining, especially when it comes to climate change.

Which brings us to the question of coal. You might be surprised to learn that coal consumption in this country has fallen significantly. In fact, coal, which provided 50% of the nation’s electricity, is now providing only 33%. As a result, US carbon emissions dropped by 7.7% since 2006, while global emissions rose to an all time high. How did that happen? It was due to a combination of fortuitous factors including the recession, a mild winter, the discovery of additional reserves of cleaner natural gas leading to dramatically reduced prices, and the decommissioning of several antiquated coal plants (as well as the blocking of new ones), thanks to efforts like the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. Back in April, natural gas fired electric generation pulled even with coal for the first time ever.

Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute said, "It wasn't expected it could turn so quickly and decisively." US GHG emissions had increased by 10.5% from 1990 to 2010, which suggests that the drop-off was quite recent.

Coal pile via Shutterstock.

Read more at ENN Affiliate, TriplePundit.

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