Two American Governors have opposed the Obama Administration's recent move that could result in the export of up to 100 million tonnes of coal per year, primarily to Asia - India and China in particular - arguing that it is a major source of greenhouse gas emission.
The Governors of coal-rich Washington and Oregon states wrote to a top Obama advisor that before the US and its trading partners make substantial new investments in coal generation and the infrastructure to transport coal, extending the world's reliance on this fuel for decades, the US needs a full public airing of the consequences of such a path.
In a letter to Nancy Sutley, Chair, Council on Environmental Quality, Governor of Oregon John A Kitzhaber and his Washington counterpart Jay Inslee said that coal will inevitably play an important part in the global energy supply in the short term.
"We believe the federal government must examine the true costs of long-term commitments to supply coal from federal lands for energy production, whether that production occurs domestically or in Asia. We cannot seriously take the position in international and national policymaking that we are a leader in controlling greenhouse gas emissions without also examining how we will use and price the world's largest proven coal reserves," they said.
"As you know, while coal consumption is declining in the United States, consumption in Asia is driving a substantial increase in global coal use. Although China and India are working to increase their use of other fuels and renewables, coal consumption in Asia has more than doubled in the last ten years," they said in their joint letter dated March 25.
Notably several Indian companies are eyeing at the coal reserves in Oregon and Washington so as those from China to fuel their thermal power plants and thus meet their galloping energy demands.
The letter came following a move by the US Army Corps of Engineers to review several permit applications for coal export shipping terminals in Oregon and Washington.
These proposals could result in the export of up to 100 million tonnes of coal per year. The expected end use of this coal is for energy production in Asia.
No final decisions have been made yet.
So far coal exports from the US have not been a major source of supply for foreign markets, but that is beginning to change. US coal exports already have grown from 50 million tonnes in 2006 to just under 100 million tonnes in 2012 according to the US Energy Information Agency (EIA).
Notably the US holds the world's largest recoverable coal reserves, according to the EIA, much of which are found on federal lands in the western US.
"The recent interest in coal export shipping terminals along the west coast, along with decreasing domestic demand, is a clear indication that the US could become a significant supplier of coal to Asia," the letter said.