CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Exporting large amounts of Wyoming coal to East Asia would have a negligible effect on global greenhouse gas emissions because the amount of coal burned in those countries isn’t a result of coal’s availability so much as their rapid economic growth and heavy reliance on the fossil fuel to produce electricity, developers of coal export facilities said Thursday.
While environmentalists warn that exporting U.S. coal overseas has the same effect on climate change as burning it here, participants in a coal exports discussion panel at the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority spring energy conference said the global coal market isn’t driven by supply but demand.
The Powder River Basin of northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana is the top coal-producing region in the U.S., supplying around 40 percent of the nation’s coal.
Should large docking facilities get approved and built in the Pacific Northwest, Wyoming could find new coal markets in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, the panelists said.
“The opposition to port developments in this country talk of creating greater coal burn in Asia if more U.S. coal is available,” said Michael Mewing, a consultant with coal mine owner and export terminal developer Lighthouse Resources Inc. “The reality of life is that demand will continue to grow, and it will be met whether the U.S. participates or not.”
Another panelist agreed, pointing to a recent U.S. Surface Transportation Board draft environmental study for a Montana rail line for coal shipments. The study found that exporting Wyoming coal overseas mostly would offset — and only marginally increase — existing international coal shipments, Millennium Bulk Terminals Chief Executive Officer Bill Chapman said.
Lighthouse Resources, formerly known as Ambre Energy, is pursuing two major coal export terminals on the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington.
One is Millennium Bulk Terminals’ facility in Longview.