President Trump’s executive order scaling back Obama-era initiatives such as the Clean Power Plan, along with other environmental regulations, was received with the expected pomp from liberals and conservatives alike. But it doesn’t take a bleeding heart to see the writing on the wall: while the coal industry may have been given new life, Trump’s executive order in reality may be only an incremental stay in extending that life. Even with the President’s blessing, coal still faces numerous obstacles in the marketplace quickened by the previous Administration.
Another reality is that increased energy demand from the global marketplace, along with the expanded cost competitiveness from sustainable energy sources, reinforces the necessity that America has the chance to seize upon the tremendous opportunity to export our advanced clean coal power technology to consumers worldwide. Both to the world’s benefit, and to ours.
The future of American coal isn’t found underground; it’s in American technological superiority in making the planet’s most abundant source of energy cleaner and more efficient. As the United States pursues our own energy independence, we should seize on the opportunity to support developing countries as they seek to maximize and benefit from their own energy resources.
In 2017, 1.2 billion people worldwide still lack basic household access to electricity. This impacts children who need clean water to drink, vaccines that need refridgeration to work, and farms that need power to feed the hungry. Without reliable and affordable energy, developing countries have little hope of lifting their citizens out of poverty. This remains a humanitarian crisis that makes the world less safe and less hospitable, contributing to state failure and destabilizing mass-migration.
Accordingly, it is downright irresponsible for institutions like the World Bank/IMF to dictate what energy sources the poorest countries in the world can leverage to support their development. While many take issue with the World Bank’s role in general, so long as it exists and exerts its influence, pressure should be applied to move it away from oppressive policies. As they convene on Washington this month for annual meetings, the fact will remain that over a billion people don’t have the power necessary to turn on the lights. If it is injecting itself into the world’s development initiatives, the World Bank/IMF should ease restrictions limiting funding for clean coal power production projects in developing countries.
Coal use and responsible environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive ideas. Clean coal technologies can significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions while producing more energy with less coal. The United States is leading the way in carbon capture technology development. High-Efficiency Low-Emission (HELE) power stations built by American companies in developing countries are the most effective way of making power generation cleaner while ensuring our electricity remains affordable. American consumers support expanding areas for safe exploration and extraction of our energy assets which will ultimately provide people with the power to choose the energy options that are right for them.
Rather than supporting colonial policies that prevent development where it’s needed most, the United States should support sovereign nations like India, which is actively seeking to revitalize its power sector through the use of clean coal as part of its energy mix. U.S. leaders should leverage the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), which empowers U.S. exporters to increase their sales abroad to make our technology more competitive abroad. Increasing global sales will directly and immediately benefit the bottom-line of American companies by expanding job growth at home, building our trade balance, and supporting the research and development of critical future technologies.
This is the kind of energy policy the American people have been waiting for; one that supports U.S. businesses, creates new American jobs through manufacturing of clean coal technologies, ensures energy consumers access to affordable and reliable energy options, and produces cleaner energy in the U.S. and around the world.
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