Exports could save U.S. coal, study says - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Exports could save U.S. coal, study says

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  • Many WV coal counties losing revenue

    Many WV coal counties losing revenue

    Monday, August 8 2016 10:15 AM EDT2016-08-08 14:15:05 GMT

    As Appalachian coal production continues its drastic decline, West Virginia’s coal-producing counties are  not only losing people as lifelong residents are forced to flee their homes in order to find work, but in many cases, they’re also relinquishing millions of dollars from their budgets.

    As Appalachian coal production continues its drastic decline, West Virginia’s coal-producing counties are  not only losing people as lifelong residents are forced to flee their homes in order to find work, but in many cases, they’re also relinquishing millions of dollars from their budgets.

Exporting coal from the United States to power plants in South Korea instead of burning it for power generation domestically could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent, according to a recent study led by Duke University.

More specifically, U.S. power plants would have to replace the exported coal with natural gas, and South Korea must use U.S. coal in place of other coal, said Dalia Patiño-Echeverri, assistant professor of energy systems and public policy at Duke.

“Despite the large amount of emissions produced by shipping the coal such a long distance, our analysis shows that the total emissions would drop because of the superior energy efficiency of South Korea's newer coal-fired power plants,” Patiño-Echeverri said.

However, if coal imported from the U.S. were to replace natural gas or nuclear generation in Korea, the emissions produced per unit of electricity generated would increase.

“This significant difference in results highlights the importance of analyzing domestic energy policies in the context of the global systems they affect,” she added.

Stricter emissions requirements on coal-fired power plants and low natural gas prices have contributed to a shrinking domestic coal market, causing many coal companies to take advantage of a growing export market, she said. U.S. coal exports hit an all-time high in 2012, fueled largely by demand in Asia. U.S. coal exports to Asian countries have tripled since 2009.

Aside from the benefits of reducing harmful emissions from carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter demonstrated by the export scenario, the study also found a positive economic impact.

“Our analysis shows that the export scenario would generate more than $25 billion in direct and indirect economic activity in the United States,” Patiño-Echeverri said. “It would also directly or indirectly create nearly $6 billion in total employee compensation, $742 million in new tax revenues, and roughly $4.7 billion in profits for all sectors involved.”

However, Patiño-Echeverri said further studies need to be done to assess the scenario's full environmental impacts, including water use, land use, the loss of degradation of vital fish and wildlife habitats, and risks associated with extraction and wastewater disposal of U.S. shale gas deposits.

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