U.S. Coal Industry Growth

By Andy May

U.S. coal production declined from 2011 through 2016 as it was displaced in U.S. power plants by cheaper and cleaner natural gas. Some of the reduction was also due to the Obama Clean Power Plan regulations. However, the shale gas revolution in the U.S. has not spread to other countries, perhaps due to the “fracking” scare, so worldwide use of coal increased rapidly until 2013. From 2000 until 2013 global coal use increased at a rate of over 4% per year. This led to an increase in U.S. coal exports (see Figure 1) because the U.S. is a low-cost producer of high quality coal. Coal consumption worldwide has flattened and is expected to stay flat through 2040, according to ExxonMobil’s 2018 Energy Outlook as well as the EIA. Currently coal provides 25% of the global energy supply and this is projected to decrease to 20% by 2040 according to ExxonMobil.

Figure 1. U.S. Coal exports, data source: EIA.

U.S. coal resources, as of January 2017, are roughly 476 billion short tons, of which 17 billion are proven reserves in producing mines according to the EIA. In 2017 the U.S. produced 773 million short tons (MMst) of coal according to the EIA, 45 MMst (6%) higher than in 2016. Currently, BP estimates that 22% of the world’s coal reserves are in the U.S. and the EIA estimates we have 260 billion short tons of coal reserves or 28% of the world’s total reserves. A short ton is a U.S. ton or 2,000 U.S. pounds, a tonne or metric tonne is 2,205 U.S. pounds. The coal reserves (however calculated) are cheap to produce and of high quality relative to most other worldwide reserves. The only real limit on U.S. export growth is the lack of port capacity on the west coast. Washington, Oregon and California have prevented construction or expansion of seven proposed new coal export terminals (see Figure 2) by passing laws or delaying permitting under pressure from environmental groups. The groups fighting these terminals include Native Americans and The Sierra Club,

Figure 2. U.S. coal export terminal construction locations blocked by environmentalist lobbying. Source: The Wall Street Journal.

The most noticeable court battle over a proposed new coal export facility in the U.S. has been fought since 2010 in Longview, Washington. The proposed 44 million tonne per year terminal was to be built by Lighthouse Resources Inc. Permits for the construction were denied by the state of Washington and the state decision is now being challenged by Wyoming, Montana, Kansas, Utah, South Dakota and Nebraska. They are claiming that the reasons given for the rejection are overly broad and that Washington does not have the right to deny interior states access to foreign trade. A coalition of industry groups has also filed a brief in support of the proposed coal export terminal. Even the American Farm Bureau Federation has joined the amicus brief because the legal issues raised by the Washington state decision are much broader than just coal or oil and gas exports. Environmental regulations obviously infringe on private property rights, but how far? This is the question that needs to be answered.

The largest coal-export facility in North America is in Vancouver, British Columbia and it is nearly full capacity (see Figure 3). It exports metallurgical coal from British Columbia and a little thermal coal from the western U.S., mainly Wyoming. Additional capacity is planned, but is being fought by numerous environmental groups as described by Brent Jang in The Globe and Mail. The irony that the Kinder-Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion has been approved by the Canadian government, but is being fought by the city that contains the largest coal export facility in North America is not lost on the Canadian press, as seen here in the National Post. Westshore Terminals (see Figure 3), in Vancouver, loaded 29 million (metric) tonnes of coal in 2017, which is triple the combined exports of the entire U.S. West Coast. All of Vancouver’s coal terminals loaded 37 million tonnes of coal, more than all the facilities in the Norfolk, Virginia, the largest coal export port in the U.S.

Figure 3. A Canadian Press photo of the Westshore Coal terminal in Vancouver, B.C. This is part of the largest coal export facility in North America.

If the political situation in either Canada or the U.S. “left” coast changes, the exports of coal from Wyoming’s huge mines will grow substantially, the cost and quality advantages of U.S. coal can be easily seen in Figure 4. The prices are shown for low-sulfur, high-quality bituminous coal for both Australia and the U.S. The price of the Wyoming coal, FOB at the mine (“Free-On-Board,” that is loaded onto a train at the cost of the mine) is $12-$13 per short (U.S. 2,000 lb.) ton. Shipping the coal by train to Vancouver costs about $17/ton for a total of nearly $30. But, even this price is much cheaper than the cost of comparable Australian coal FOB Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. The shipping distance (and cost) from Seattle or Vancouver to Beijing is about the same as the distance from Newcastle to Beijing. Yet, currently the Chinese and Indians are forced to buy higher priced coal from Australia simply because the Wyoming mines can’t get their coal to China. This is also true for the Japanese that are using more coal due to the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster.

Figure 4. Coal cost from Australia versus Wyoming. The gray line includes $17 of transportation charges to Vancouver.  The coal, loaded onto a train at the mine is only about $12.

It is worth noting that from 2016 to 2017, U.S. exports of coal to Asia went up 209% and exports to Africa went up 443%. Exports increased to other parts of the world as well, but the real growth is in the developing world. According to the NY Times, 1,600 new coal plants are planned in 62 countries around the world. The Chinese will be building 700 of these in China and elsewhere. Even if all these plants are not built, demand for thermal coal worldwide will increase dramatically.

Since the cheapest high-quality coal in the U.S. is in the west and the biggest markets are in Asia, western ports are desperately needed. The growth of U.S. exports to Asia from 2016 to 2017 was from 15.7 million tons to 32.8 million tons according to the EIA, out of a total of 60 million tons shipped worldwide in 2016 (EIA). Because the largest potential customers are in Asia, shipping to them requires a West Coast shipping terminal because the largest bulk carrier ships, the Valemax ore carriers, cannot pass through the new 2016 Panama Canal and shipping Wyoming coal to the Texas coast for export is simply too expensive when the additional charges for the Canal or rounding South America are taken into account. Once a West Coast solution is found, the long-term prospects for U.S. coal dominance are good. The U.S. has a 381-year supply of cheap high-quality coal. If the U.S. could get the coal to market, it would dominate world coal exports.

U.S. coal production is coming back, and prices are going up.

Figure 5. from the EIA.

What about Coal Pollution?

It is true that CO2 emissions from burning coal are higher per unit of energy than emissions from natural gas, it still isn’t clear if this is a problem, as I have previously discussed here and here. Further, the additional CO2 is not a health hazard, regardless of the EPA’s “endangerment” finding, and it does promote plant growth. But, what about coal emissions that are truly hazardous? The main culprits are carbon monoxide, NOx compounds, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and particulate matter or ash. It turns out these are very well controlled with specialized pollution control equipment in modern coal-fired and wood-fired power plants. Figure 6 shows the main pollutants from coal combustion and the equipment used in modern power plants to remove them from the flue gases.

Figure 6. Coal combustion pollutants and the equipment used to eliminate or reduce them. Here we do not include CO2, steam or heat as pollutants. Source (Moretti and Jones 2012). SCR systems are selective catalytic reduction equipment that reduce NOx compounds to N2 and water. FGD systems use wet limestone to remove SO2 and produce gypsum. ESP’s or electrostatic precipitators and fabric baghouses are used to eliminate particulate matter created by the coal combustion and particulates created from mercury and SO3 treatments. More details are available in (Moretti and Jones 2012).

These toxic effluents remain a serious and deadly hazard when coal, wood and other biomass is burned in homes. Domestic burning of wood and coal generally has no flue treatment and is emitted from a short chimney, this greatly increases the amount of particulate matter and toxic compounds on the surface where we live. Besides the emissions listed for coal combustion, wood produces additional toxins, including polyaromatic hydrocarbons. If the bark is not removed from the wood, burning bark can produce even more air pollutants and bark is very ash rich (Ghafghazi, et al. 2011). But, besides increasing the ambient air pollution, domestic burning greatly increases indoor pollution. Indoor pollution, from burning biomass or kerosene in the home, is estimated to cause 3.8 million pre-mature deaths per year by the World Health Organization.

Coal-fired power plant emissions are controlled well enough that they are not a serious contributor to ambient air pollution, but domestic burning of biomass is a serious problem. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA) household, institutional and commercial burning of biomass produces 57% of PM2.5 (2.5-micron particulate matter) in the ambient air. WHO says residential burning alone accounts for 33% of total EU emissions and a separate study by the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) suggests that over 40% of emissions are from residential biomass burning. In contrast, energy production and distribution of electricity supplies 5%. Domestic wood burning is also a serious problem in the U.S. and in the developing world. In Western Europe it has been estimated that 40,000 deaths per year are linked to domestic burning and the economic costs are more than 33 billion Euros. These figures are all from (Holland 2018).

The best way to avoid domestic coal, kerosene or biomass burning is to make electricity and/or natural gas available to residences so it isn’t necessary. Regulations that increase the cost of power plant electricity or increase the cost of natural gas are counterproductive since they increase domestic burning. The domestic burning creates a widely distributed and hard-to-control source of dangerous air pollutants. Coal-fired power plants are the least expensive source of reliable electricity for most of the world, yet they are maligned by conflating air pollution from domestic coal use (especially in China and India) with air pollution figures from coal-fired power plants. To make matters worse, it is widely believed that burning wood is cleaner, from an air pollution standpoint, than burning coal, this is the so-called “climate neutral” myth, debunked by the European Academies Advisory Council (EASAC). From their report (EASAC 2017):

“The validity of the carbon neutrality concept has been intensively studied and has been shown to be highly simplistic. The inherent lower energy density of biomass means that more has to be burnt (relative to fossil fuels) to generate the same amount of electricity or heat; thus, initial emissions are higher. Moreover, the length of time needed for those emissions to be compensated by the growth of new forests, called the carbon payback time …, can be substantial (Fargione et al., 2008).” EASAC, policy report 32, April 2017.

Advanced pollution control equipment and careful management can make either coal or wood very clean. However, the lack of pollution control equipment, especially in a residence with a low chimney, produces a great deal of air pollution from either source. Generally, wood creates more air pollution per unit of energy than coal simply because it has a lower energy density and a higher water content, but the quality of the wood and the quality of the coal can vary a lot. The sophistication of the stove or boiler also matters a great deal. Sadly, very few residences, even in the Western World, have cyclones, electrostatic cleaners, or fabric baghouse equipment on their fireplaces, the pollutants go straight into the air, barely above ground level and are a danger to the entire neighborhood and household. Besides the equipment needed to trap particulates, other equipment is used in power plants remove metals and toxic compounds, like CO, SO2, mercury, and NOx as listed in Figure 6 and in (Moretti and Jones 2012). In a commercial coal-burning or wood-burning power plant all this equipment is present, reducing the emitted toxic particulates, metals and other toxins by well over 90%. Further the emissions are released much higher in the air, far away from ground level (Ghafghazi, et al. 2011). Figure 7 plots the efficiency of the most common particulate pollution control equipment:

Figure 7. The efficiency of particulate removal by three different methods. Source: (Ghafghazi, et al. 2011).

The reality is that coal-fired power plants, as well as high-quality wood burning power plants can, and often do, reduce air pollution in places like China, India and many African nations by replacing domestic coal and wood burning with electricity. The problem is that land-use issues, clear-cutting trees, planting new trees, processing the timber into wood pellets, etc. can be a problem with using wood as a fuel. These issues are discussed in much more detail in Dr. Michael Holland’s excellent white paper Covered in Smoke (Holland 2018).

Andy May has just published his first book: “Climate Catastrophe! Science or Science Fiction?”  It is available from Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Works Cited

EASAC. 2017. Multi-functionality and sustainability in the European Union’s forests. German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. https://easac.eu/fileadmin/PDF_s/reports_statements/Forests/EASAC_Forests_web_complete.pdf.

Ghafghazi, S., T. Sowlati, S. Sokhansanj, S. Bi, and S. Melin. 2011. “Particulate matter emissions from combustion of wood in district heating applications.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032111001365.

Holland, Mike. 2018. Covered in Smoke. Fern. http://fern.org/sites/default/files/news-pdf/Covered in smoke.pdf.

Moretti, A.L., and C.S. Jones. 2012. “Advance Emissions Control Technologies for Coal-Fired Power Plants.” Power-Gen Asia. Bangkok, Thailand. https://andymaypetrophysicist.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/advanced_emissions_control_coal_br-1886.pdf.

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Timo Soren
May 17, 2018 11:06 am

Political Strangulation of an industry, plain and simple.

Bryan A
Reply to  Timo Soren
May 17, 2018 12:19 pm

Perhaps it is time for Mid Western Coal interests to partner with Canada and export the Coal on the Canadian west coast instead of Washington, Oregon or Wakey-fornia (I am a wackey-fornian 5th generation)

Steve Zell
Reply to  Bryan A
May 17, 2018 12:45 pm

Or, to export coal from Wyoming, put it on a train to a port on the Missouri or MIssissippi River, and they can export it from New Orleans.
Interesting statistic–if the USA has 476 billion tons of coal reserves, and we produced 773 million tons in 2017, at that rate our coal reserves would last 616 years. But what are people going to do in the year 2634?

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Bryan A
May 17, 2018 1:26 pm

It is interesting that the Vancouver coal facility is like an Alcatraz. Except the difference is not to keep prisoners in but to keep ECO terrorists out.

Reply to  Bryan A
May 17, 2018 1:33 pm

634 years ago was 1384.
What advice do you believe the people of 1384 would have for us and how to live with the problems that we face in 2018.
Just as the people of 1384 could not have imagined what the world of 2018 would be like, we can’t fathom what the world of 2634 is going to be like. Nor could we imagine what technologies the world will develop over those 634 years.
Who knows, maybe they’ll have finally conquered fusion?

Bryan A
Reply to  Bryan A
May 17, 2018 2:17 pm

While the River would work, It would also add many miles to the trip as the carriers would need to traverse the Panama Canal to get to the Pacific for transport to Japan and China. R/R to Vancouver would be much closer to the intended destination and only slightly farther than Washington.

Reply to  Bryan A
May 18, 2018 4:37 am

US has over 600 years of coal reserves to burn. The world lithium reserves are 16 million tons and annual production is 250,000 tons and growing fast. At that rate, the world will ran out of lithium in 64 years, probably sooner. Instead of electric cars in the future, we might revert to coal-powered cars. This is a World War 2 technology of coal gasification and Fischer-Tropsch process to produce synthetic diesel.comment image

Reply to  Bryan A
May 18, 2018 5:27 am

By 2080, this will be obsolete. No more lithium to mine
This will be popular again. Retro diesel truck powered by synthetic diesel from coalcomment image

May 17, 2018 11:10 am

How about Mexico? Tijuana is only slightly further away from Wyoming than Vancouver. The mexicans probably wouldn’t mind a new harbor and a lot of new jobs.

Richard Thornton
Reply to  tty
May 17, 2018 6:26 pm

There is no harbor near Tijuana. I think you meant Ensenada.

John F. Hultquist
May 17, 2018 11:15 am

Meanwhile, Seattle wants to tax major businesses to shovel money at their homeless folks.
The left coast politicians are truly nuts.
And the climate doesn’t care.

Christopher Chantrill
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
May 17, 2018 5:18 pm

Yes, But the homeless often camp near to a rail line. Suppose a piece of coal fell off the train onto a homeless person. And suppose the coal dust impacted the lungs of the homeless. That would require an increase in spending on the homeless, and an increase in taxes on big Seattle businesses.
You can see that coal is just sick and wrong. And icky. Eeeeu!

Reply to  Christopher Chantrill
May 18, 2018 5:36 am

In the old days children would scavenge along the rail lines to find chunks of coal that fell from the cars to burn in the stove to cook food and heat the home. Now they cover the cars so as to not lose any product and prevent coal dust from blanketing the route. It keeps the environmentalists happy, but removes an inadvertent subsidy for the poor.

Chris Hoff
May 17, 2018 11:16 am

At today’s oil prices, maybe we’ll start seeing wave liquefaction.

Reply to  Chris Hoff
May 18, 2018 4:57 am

looks interesting.
Plenty of hits for a “microwave coal gas” search. worldwide.

May 17, 2018 11:17 am

Thank you, Andy! There is so much good information in your piece, especially for practical environmentalist like myself. Steve

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Steve Heins
May 17, 2018 1:28 pm

There were a couple contradictions though.

May 17, 2018 11:25 am

YouTube:The Time For Clean Coal Is Now Here

Reply to  Sid Abma
May 17, 2018 1:34 pm

We’ve had clean coal for about 40 years.

Reply to  Sid Abma
May 18, 2018 7:27 am

The time for wacky uber-environmentalists to RECOGNIZE clean coal is here is now. (Not much we can do for them coming 40 years late to the party.)

May 17, 2018 11:26 am

The Vancouver area is full of anti – fossil fuels activists. They are against everything related to fossil fuels, including coal shipments. It will be interesting to see how they adapt to their now fossil fuel free lifestyles, when Alberta shuts off the gas.
‘Ready and prepared to turn off the taps’: Alberta premier issues stark warning to B.C. as pipeline fight escalates
The additional costs would bring the cost to fill up a typical 60-litre-tank car in the Vancouver area up to $120

John Endicott
Reply to  Cam_S
May 17, 2018 12:01 pm

Good on Alberta’s premier. Let B.C. feel the reality of a fossil fuel free lifestyle.

Jan Christoffersen
Reply to  John Endicott
May 17, 2018 5:24 pm

I live in B.C. and I agree with you. A serious constitutional crisis is developing In Canada. If B.C. gets away with this, we will devolve into a balkanized bunch of squabbling fiefdoms.

Chris Hoff
Reply to  John Endicott
May 17, 2018 9:25 pm

I also live in BC, and I support what Alberta is doing. We’ve been stuck with nothing for voting choices between socialists, progressives and greens for the longest time. It would be an excellent wake up call for the whole lot.

Reply to  John Endicott
May 17, 2018 10:04 pm

“If B.C. gets away with this, we will devolve into a balkanized bunch of squabbling fiefdoms.”
Yes. Trudeau looks set to go down in history as the man who destroyed Canada. Alberta can’t remain for long in a country full of oil-hating liberals who expect the Albertans to pay high taxes to subsidize the liberals’ failing economies.

May 17, 2018 11:27 am

The groups fighting these terminals include Native Americans and The Sierra Club

Not all Indian bands are against everything. For instance, many support the Trans Mountain Pipeline. link The ones who are agaInst everything are the ones who get the press coverage though.

Reply to  commieBob
May 18, 2018 2:51 am

I read an article a few weeks ago saying that many of the native American protesters were paid rather well to object to the pipeline. No idea if it’s true or not.
Perhaps a bit like the myth that all we sceptics are shills paid by big oil.
PS If any of you guys are paid shills, let me know please, I could do with some extra dosh.

Reply to  HotScot
May 18, 2018 5:19 am

well, a paid protester is just as legit as a non paid one. If he doesn’t really care about the thing he protest against, someone else does enough to pay him.
Anyway, there is no shortage of people supporting dumb cause for free

Reply to  commieBob
May 18, 2018 5:38 am

It is only the ones that are receiving large checks from the TIDES foundation that are leading the protest.

Gary Hagland
Reply to  commieBob
May 18, 2018 8:22 am

The Crow tribe in MT is sitting on a good sized deposit and wants to get the coal to the Asia market. However, other tribes, especially in WA have allied with the radical environmentalists to block expanded dry-shipping port facilities in Bellingham as well as Longview. My cynical self thinks that if tribes had control of port lands, they might have a change of heart about the whole matter.

May 17, 2018 11:34 am

The rail system in the U.S. would handle it moving south but it is busy with sand shipments to do fracking. The MS-MO river system could handle it but that system is busy with increased grain from the greening grain belt and industrial goods from the current pro-growth policies in DC. I guess that leaves Mexico plus met coal in the east. Or consider coal to diesel like in Indiana….

May 17, 2018 11:37 am

The export issue point out that most of the problems are political, as is the US building new coal fired electric plants. Any long term investment can be disrupted by a change in government, so no one will take that risk.

Larry D
Reply to  Tom Halla
May 17, 2018 12:45 pm

Any bets on how much Russia (previously the Soviet Union) has been “colluding” with the environmental groups of the West?

Reply to  Larry D
May 17, 2018 1:36 pm

We know that the KGB was heavily involved in supporting environmental groups. The head of the KGB back then, now rules Russia.

Reply to  Larry D
May 17, 2018 2:32 pm

Rep. Lamar Smith and his committee has done work exposing that, so it is not really news.

Reply to  Larry D
May 18, 2018 7:34 am

About the only difference between the Soviet Union and Russia is the spelling.

Mike Clark
May 17, 2018 11:39 am

Clean Energy Technology Association is a great technology that removes hazardous elements from the burning process before it hits the atmosphere. CETA revolutionizes coal burning and makes it profitable and as clean as burning Natural Gas.

May 17, 2018 11:41 am

The coal port in Vancouver has been under fire since it was put in. It is ironic since the GVRD (Greater Vancouver Regional District) has been installing condo towers with abandon for the last 15 years. This has an effect on the infrastructure of the GVRD that they do not want you to find out. When a new 40 to 50 story condo tower is erected the 8 to 10 houses on that block are removed. So instead of 40 people living off of the 1 block infrastructure it increases to around 640 people. This increase has not been added to the sewer system and as a result the GVRD is dumping raw sewage into the Fraser River at an alarming rate. The GVRD can only process up to 75% of the total outflow when it is not raining and lower than 60% when it is. It rains a lot in the GVRD. There are no new upgrades planned for the GVRD sewage system. Not to be out done the capital of BC is Victoria and they have been dumping raw sewage into the pristine waters of BC since the city was formed. Millions of gallons are discharged daily and there was a recent outbreak of CHOLERA on lower Vancouver Island from people eating herring eggs contaminated with raw sewage. The lefties of the coastal areas are the biggest hypocrites around.

Larry D
Reply to  Boris
May 17, 2018 12:49 pm

Environmental engineering needs more development, residential towers need to be able to have their own sewage etc. so they’re more modular.

May 17, 2018 11:48 am

Thirty members of the First Nations Tribes of Canada say it prioritizes the environment, but in balance with economic development goals. “We absolutely do not support big American environmental NGO’s (who make their money from opposing natural resource projects) dictating government policy and resource developments within our tradition territories.” First Nations Tribes

May 17, 2018 11:51 am

Enlarge or build another port in Vancouver. There, solved that problem. We’ve got the coal right here in Wyoming.

M.W. Plia
May 17, 2018 12:19 pm

I’m proud of Vancouver and it’s handling of the coal situation.
Here in Ontario the damage done from implementing “The Green Energy Act” is horrific. The waste is approaching $100 billion. A fiscal boondoggle of irresponsible spending unmatched in Canadian history.
Shutting down coal…for no other reason than the fervid imaginations of some very influential people. For jurisdictions without access to natural gas, coal is by far the safest, least expensive and quickest route to base load power for the grid. But try telling that to anyone in this country and they will perceive you as nuts.
Not only did these clowns shut down coal, they spent double digit billions refurbishing old nukes that should have been decommissioned, then unbelievably investing multiple billions in wind/solar parks along with the required conventional back-up and creating an almost daily requirement for excess “alternative” power sold to the spot market for a fraction. On top of all that…a carbon tax.….total $fiasco and no reason for it.
All these idiots had to do was hook up to the hydro power available from Quebec. By making gasoline and electricity more expensive these people think they can change the clouds, and they have the blessing from our educated, political and media elites.
What’s even funnier is we are in the process of electing a new government and “The Green Energy Act” is not up for discussion. In this neck of the woods if you are not on board with the politically correct man-made climate change alarmist narrative you are irrelevant.
Madness, just insane madness.

Reply to  M.W. Plia
May 18, 2018 6:00 am

The sad thing is that a few fluidized-bed coal plants have been built in the US and they are clean and efficient. They do away w/all the expensive add-ons retrofitted to the earlier generation coal plants. No scrubbers, catalytic converters or even precipitators needed — just simple bag-houses. Of course, the argument against them now is they emit CO2 — plant food!

Jim Gorman
May 17, 2018 1:08 pm

It seems to me the Supreme Court should weigh in here. I don’t see how one state can interfere with interstate/international commerce from another. The implications go much further that just coal. There is grain and all kinds of exports that coastal states could control. They could even possibly interfere with imports if this is allowed to stand. God forbid the coastal states begin demanding payments to allow shipments to proceed! You want to import gas guzzler pickups, forget it or pay up. You want to export gas guzzler pickups, forget it or pay up.

CD in Wisconsin
Reply to  Jim Gorman
May 17, 2018 3:16 pm

Gorman: If you are referring to the Interstate Commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, that is what I was thinking of as well….
The link above defines the Interstate Commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution:
“…The provision of the U.S. Constitution that gives Congress exclusive power over trade activities among the states and with foreign countries and Indian tribes.
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3, of the Constitution empowers Congress “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” The term commerce as used in the Constitution means business or commercial exchanges in any and all of its forms between citizens of different states, including purely social communications between citizens of different states by telegraph, telephone, or radio, and the mere passage of persons from one state to another for either business or pleasure….”.”
I am no lawyer or constitutional expert here, but my reading of the definition above suggests to me that the West Coast states are trying to do something that the U.S. Constitution says only the U.S. Congress can do when the coastal states deny businesses in the interior states access to export terminals on the coast (or build their own). If I am understanding the clause correctly, then the coalition of interior states should have a good legal case against the West Coast states here.
Would be interested in hearing from Ristvan here on this….

Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
May 18, 2018 5:32 am

Sure, but the trend is to use indirect ways to interfere with commerce. Especially environmental concerns.
So, for instance, you don’t say “I’ll forbid you to trade coal”, you say “coal is SO toxic, you know, we ban it’s handling” (outright ban, of just effective ban through overcostly demands)

May 17, 2018 1:17 pm

Shipping coal is very inefficient, it would make more sense to burn it here and export of more energy dense fuel, like nuclear.

Reply to  aaron
May 17, 2018 1:35 pm

And/or “figure out” how to transport electrical power globally. I tend to favor via earth satellites.

Reply to  gbaikie
May 18, 2018 7:58 am

Oh, that would work: Some nefarious terrorist figures out how to re-direct those transmission satellites towards a city just to watch the inhabitants fry…
Nothing to worry about there.

May 17, 2018 1:55 pm


Ron Tuohimaa
May 17, 2018 3:24 pm

There are couple of significant ironies in this article. First, I noticed once again, that throughout the world 1,600 new coal-fired power plants are currently under construction. The Chinese are involved in almost half of them. Yet it is China that the participants of the Paris Climate Accord are heralding as the saviors and liberators of the agreement. However, the reality is that without money from the USA, they really needed another sugar daddy and China fit that bill – an additional irony is that today economist may have concluded that China is cooking the books upward when it comes to their economy as it relates to GDP. The Paris Climate Accord has no provisions for CO2 reductions, simply money, who gets it, and where it goes.
Next, the greenies have thrown such an unwarranted scare into fracking for natural gas that countries other than the USA are staying away from the process. So while the USA is the only major country to have decreased its CO2 emissions in the recent past, simply by converting to power plants fueled by NG, other countries are fueling their electrical power using coal – renewable energies of course, are much too inadequate, ineffective and costly.
The grand outcome in all of this is that the alarmist green have become an unintentional, but significant marketer for American coal – I’m sure the mines and hardworking miners thank them.

Reply to  Ron Tuohimaa
May 18, 2018 2:57 am

Ron Tuohimaa
I believe the UK is reducing the planning requirements for exploratory fracking operations.
A baby step, but at least it’s in the right direction.

Jan Christoffersen
May 17, 2018 4:30 pm

I am going to order a copy of your book.

Smart Rock
May 17, 2018 6:37 pm

Andy, you may not have noticed that the port of Prince Rupert in British Columbia also has a coal shipping terminal, with a capacity of 18 million metric tonnes annually. It is apparently operating at 25 percent of its capacity. It is owned by our federal government, which can’t seem to make up its collective mind (assuming that it has one) what to do with it.
PR is 750 kilometres northwest of Vancouver.
Prince Rupert is also served by an under-used rail line. If they could get their act together, they could be shipping Alberta coal and free up more of Vancouver’s capacity. If…….

May 17, 2018 9:54 pm

Keep it up US and Canada! While you both continue to make it difficult to export your energy products from your west coasts, Australia can continue to make a killing exporting to the same Asian markets.

Reply to  Andy May
May 18, 2018 10:20 am

…while continuing as a signer of the Paris Agreement

Reply to  Graeme#4
May 18, 2018 10:36 am

How is approval going for that mine in Queensland coming along?

May 18, 2018 1:59 pm

Maybe they should apply for a facility to export wood pellets (well, follized wood pellets). The Greenies might like that. Its all in the name

May 20, 2018 5:24 am

Intemperate language still persists re Fukushima accident. There was no disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant. It was a but worse than 3 MIle Island but, arose from a major natural onslaught rather than a operational error. BUt basically, 3 Mile Island was simply secured and shut down, as was Fukushima. Other plants will continue to operate, as they did at 3 MIle Island and Chernobyl, etc. Fukushima was an accident, that killed no one and was added no significant additional effect to the enormous natural disaster. The consequential reactor meltdown arising from the real natural disaster made it an unsuseable mess, but no one died from radiation. I am not aware of any accidental deaths directly related to the plant clean up, in fact. Radiation levels not high enough to be a danger to the public, mostly never were. Yet mass evacuations were enforced at 20mSv pa, a tiny dose rate 1/20 of the highest natural levels elsewhere in the world, that killed over 1,000 needlessly, by panicking and/or ignorant authorities..
The tens of thousands who died in the Earthquake and Tsunami that flattened the coastal margins of Northern probably consider that more of a disaster. Always a good idea to keep coal fired generation operational in reserve , though, however safe and reliable nuclear becomes, we will need to generate more CO2 when the ice age temperature decline kicks in (only kidding, I know there is no significant warming from CO2 which has a tiny effect versus water vapour, which it does not get multiplied by, and the GHE science invented to account for energy retention by the atmosphere is probably wrong, and there are now more credible alternative explanations for that arising from the atmosphere’s on other planets.

Shawn Marshall
May 22, 2018 5:50 am

We have n enormous debt. We have an enormous stock of coal. Does that ring any bells? How about $1 / ton on export used only for debt – of course a balanced budget law would be predicate.

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