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Coal questions and no answers

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“Unless we can stop these coal terminals from being built and keep our coal in the ground where it belongs, Washington state coal exports will be responsible for hastening the advance of climate change here at home and around the world,” said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn in testimony before Congress Tuesday. Well, that’s the real issue, isn’t it? The proposal to export Powder River Basin coal to Asia from ports in Washington and Oregon is being fought by the environmental community nationwide, with all the power and fright it can muster. Many issues are raised, from the diesel exhaust and coal dust pollution from train after train after train, to traffic congestion and infrastructure overload and related economic disruption. Interesting issues, but small compared with the real concern: Burning coal for electricity, anywhere, contributes mightily to atmospheric greenhouse gases and climate change, so selling coal to China will increase worldwide greenhouse emissions and threaten the environment. Forbid China that coal, and leave it in the ground as McGinn suggests, and it won’t be burned, therefore greenhouse gas emissions will be less.

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