by KC Golden, via Getting a Grip
Coal export proponents like to argue that, climate-wise, it doesn’t matter: Asia will burn the same amount of coal regardless of whether we ship it from the Northwest. This argument is weak because it: a) defies basic economics – see here; b) ignores the x-factor: economic “lock-in” to dangerous climate disruption – see here; and c) is morally dubious – see here. So we know coal export is bad for the climate. Check out Eric de Place’s social math for scale.
It’s true, however, that Powder River Basin isn’t the only coal available in Asia. Estimating the net emission impact requires some elaborate economics (forthcoming). [i] But this graph is a rough, directional guide:
Let me explain.
It all comes down to the difference between the cost of producing and transporting Powder River Basin coal and the value of that coal in Asian markets. That difference appears to be huge.
PRB coal isn’t dirt cheap. It’s cheaper (than, say, top soil or gravel). Most of it lies under public land, and the federal government basically gives it away. Strip-mining is the very definition of quick and dirty – and, yes, super-cheap. The mine-mouth cost ...