Strengthening Exports

Coal Exports – Strengthening Oregon’s Export Economy.

Currently, there is much room for growth of America’s export abilities. The Pacific Northwest is becoming a leading export center for U.S. products at great benefit to our economy. In fact, 2012 was a record year for the export of goods from the Northwest. I’ve observed this personally as my farm’s grass seed is now exported to China, a market that did not exist a few years ago. Oregon alone exported nearly $20 billion worth of goods produced in our state, benefiting our tech, agriculture, and manufacturing industries. From major corporations to small family-owned farms like mine, Oregon businesses benefit substantially from our position as a Gateway to the rapidly growing economies of Asia.

To continue to grow and expand export-driven jobs in Oregon, we need a healthy and vibrant infrastructure network, including ports, railroads, and highways.  We’re lucky in that much of that infrastructure spending in the Northwest is provided for by private investment and does not depend on ever scarce taxpayer dollars.

But our infrastructure advantage is not guaranteed.  In April of this year, the loss of private investment for coal exports at Coos Bay struck a devastating blow to the Port.  The railroad line serving the port – already under public ownership after years of declining use – may be unsustainable without the added revenue from coal exports. Given that financial insolvency for county government from the predicted loss of federal timber payments is a real possibility, it seems unlikely Coos County can keep the rail line operating. The financial benefit from exporting coal in Coos Bay could have prevented this from happening.

We also face fierce competition from other regions and countries. The Federal Maritime Commission found that Pacific Northwest ports are especially vulnerable to cargo diversion, and as much as 26.7 percent of container volume in 2010 for the West Coast ports of Seattle, Tacoma, Portland and Oakland was ‘at risk’ of being diverted to a Canadian port. This revelation was a real wake up call to me and validates my reasons why I decided to become active in this issue.

To sustain and grow Oregon’s $20 billion export economy, we must continue to attract and encourage new private investment in our region.  Coal exports today, will help fund generations of future opportunity and growth.

Economic Growth

Right now, the Pacific Northwest has a great opportunity to stimulate their regional economy and as a result, the American economy, over the long-term.

Coal export terminals will add significant economic growth to the area. Facilities in Oregon are projected to create 2,100 jobs during construction, and employ over 1,000 people once fully operational – generating over $300 million in economic activity annually.  Nearby facilities in Longview, Washington will employ thousands of additional workers, providing spillover benefits to Northwest Oregon.  [Source: http://www.morrowpacific.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/MP_ExecutiveSummary080812.pdf]

Environmental Impact

The approval or rejection of these facilities will have no impact on global coal use.  If the proposed export facilities are stopped and the Pacific Northwest can’t export the coal to Asia, then other countries will. U.S. coal will likely be shifted to Canada, where existing facilities export coal today.  The largest exporters of coal today are South Africa, Russia, and Indonesia. Coal from those countriesis not as clean as the low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal to be exported from the U.S., nor is it mined in accordance with the strict environmental and safety practices that apply to U.S. facilities.

The question is not whether or not the coal will be exported, but where will the coal be exported from.

Abundant and Affordable Energy

Coal accounts for more than 50% of on-grid additions in the developing world –affordable energy the world uses to heat and light their homes and businesses.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that in 20 years, there will still be one billion people without access to electricity or clean cooking fuels. This lack of energy resources will ail the health and economic well-being of developing regions.

Access to energy is necessary for two reasons: economy prosperity and community health. Businesses need a reliable energy grid to be able to develop and expand. Without expanding economics, millions of people will remain unnecessarily impoverished due to the lack of economic development.

In addition, coal will allow households greater access to safe energy. Right now, over 2.5 billion people do not have access to clean cooking fuels. Through cooking with unsanitary and unsafe items, diseases and other ailments spread at a much more rapid rate. Through a lack of basic sanitation and healthcare, families are needlessly suffering while attempting to provide basic meals to their loved ones. I observed this personally in Africa in the 90’s, then later in Iraq and Afghanistan while embedded with the Oregon National Guard.

Poverty remains the world’s greatest polluter.