A recent deal to send millions of tons of Appalachian coal to India could bring billions of dollars to Kentucky coal producers over the next twenty-five years. But it’s not very good news for climate change.
The deal will ship up to nine million tons of Appalachian coal to India for the next 25 years. This is a lot of coal—nine million tons is actually about equivalent to the amount of coal purchased by the state of Virginia in 2010.
But burning coal releases carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change.
“From an environmental public health standpoint and a global climate change standpoint, it is better to just leave that coal in the ground and to invest in other energy technologies,” Jeff Deyette of the Union of Concerned Scientists says.
Deyette says nine million tons of coal will have the same detrimental effect on the climate whether it’s burned in the U.S. or India, because there are no carbon emissions limits on power plants in either country.
But Deyette says when you’re actually shipping that coal all the way to India, the carbon footprint grows.
“Well from a carbon perspective it is worse because you have to account for all the carbon emissions that are associated with transporting that coal from here to there,” he said. “So it actually has even a bigger hit on the climate.”
There will also be more local health effects once the coal is burned in India. That country doesn’t have pollution control standards as stringent as those in place in the U.S., so the coal will release more pollutants like sulfur, mercury and nitrogen oxide.