This is an excellent article, with good information on the impact of global shipping, US exports of dirty diesel, and more. Two examples:
“But for global warming, it means that, at the very least, the United States is making a smaller dent than it claims. In the case of gasoline and diesel, the United States is exporting far more than it has reduced in domestic consumption in recent years through steps such as efficiency standards and blending gasoline with ethanol. “This is their hidden success story that they would like to keep hidden,” said Kevin Book, a Washington-based energy analyst… “Ship pollution, which accounts for about 3 percent of global carbon emissions, is not on any country’s balance sheet”.
U.S. exporting carbon despite pledges to reduce greenhouse gases
The United States is sending more dirty fuels overseas than ever before
PATRICK SEMANSKY | ASSOCIATED PRESSRailroad cars containing coal roll into an unloading facility in Newport News, Va. As tougher U.S. climate-control policies are enacted, energy companies are sending the dirty leftovers abroad.By Dina CappielloASSOCIATED PRESS • Saturday December 27, 2014 9:33 AM
GARDI SUGDUP, Panama — Solar panels glisten from every thatched hut on the crowded island, one of the largest in a remote chain off the Panamanian coast. But the tiny emblems of green energy offer no hope against climate change.
They have helped the island’s Guna people reduce what was already a minuscule carbon footprint. The Guna cook with clean-burning gas. They use a small amount of diesel fuel to power fishing boats and a generator that lights bare bulbs dangling above dirt floors. They own one of Panama’s most pristine stretches of tropical rainforest, which cleanses the atmosphere of carbon dioxide naturally.
But larger forces threaten to uproot them, stemming from the failure by the rest of the world to cut back on carbon emissions.
Pollution linked to global warming keeps rising even though the world’s two largest carbon polluters have pledged to combat climate change, with the United States committing to deeper cuts and China saying its emissions will stop growing by 2030.
But even as the U.S. reduces the pollution responsible for global warming at home, it’s setting records for exporting dirty fuels — a dangerous trajectory.
The carbon embedded in the exports helps the United States meet its political goals by taking it off its pollution balance sheet. But it doesn’t necessarily help the planet as a whole.
While the exported fuel has become cleaner, as in the case of diesel, about 20 percent of the exports are too dirty to burn at home. And efforts to address pollution are just getting underway in some of the countries the U.S. is exporting to.
For the Guna, as carbon rises, so will the seas that imperil them. Several communities have plans to relocate to the mainland, fleeing floods and storms that have drowned some islands and divided others in half.
“We conserve. Others consume,” said Guillermo Archibold, an agronomist and former delegate to the tribal congress.
Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. has reduced more carbon pollution from energy than any other nation, about 475 million tons between 2008 and 2013, according to U.S. Energy Department data.
Less than one-fifth of that amount came from burning less gasoline and diesel, primarily in vehicles. But an Associated Press analysis of the data shows that U.S. exports of gasoline and diesel more than made up for the savings at home in pollution abroad, releasing more than
1 billion tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere elsewhere during the same period.
“It’s a false image,” said Onel Masardule of the Indigenous People’s Biocultural Climate Change Assessment Initiative, a Peru-based environmental group. “In reality, the U.S. is still contaminating.”
Among the recipients is Panama, where imports of U.S. diesel and gasoline have almost quadrupled since 2008.
Panama is the largest recipient of diesel fuel that is dirtier and more carbon-laden than would be allowed in engines in the United States. The fuel ends up in cars and trucks that don’t have the same efficiency standards and aren’t regularly inspected and maintained, the Associated Press investigation found. Panama’s requirement that drivers test emissions, including for carbon dioxide, mostly is ignored.
The fossil-fuel trade has soared under Obama amid a domestic boom in oil and natural-gas production and the biggest increases in fuel economy in history.
In 2010, the United States still imported more products refined from oil than it exported. A year later, it was a bigger exporter than importer, the first time that happened since 1949.
The boom has helped the United States reduce oil imports and create jobs in oil fields and ports. Without it, the Obama administration would be much further from a goal to double U.S. exports. The trade deficit would be wider.
But for global warming, it means that, at the very least, the United States is making a smaller dent than it claims.
In the case of gasoline and diesel, the United States is exporting far more than it has reduced in domestic consumption in recent years through steps such as efficiency standards and blending gasoline with ethanol.
“This is their hidden success story that they would like to keep hidden,” said Kevin Book, a Washington-based energy analyst. Since 2012, he has been a member of the National Petroleum Council, an advisory group selected by the U.S. energy secretary.
“It has done a lot to improve our balance of trade standing, but it is not the most climate-friendly way to do it,” Book said.
There is no clear accounting of what America’s growth as a fossil-fuel powerhouse is doing to the global-warming picture. The administration has chosen not to get to the bottom of that.
U.S. projects that increase energy exports could be considered in such an analysis, such as huge terminals planned for the West Coast to send more coal abroad for power plants. Trade agreements could factor in the implications of energy trade on global warming. But not one trade pact negotiated by the Obama White House mentions global warming.
“They have the responsibility of analyzing America’s exports on fossil-fuel demand and consumption and climate,” said Lorne Stockman of Oil Change International, an advocacy group dedicated to moving away from fossil fuels. “There has to be a holistic analysis of what those exports are and what role they are going to play in keeping the world within the climate limits.”& amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; lt; /p>
The White House said it is working to strengthen environmental provisions in trade agreements and lower tariffs on technologies that ultimately will reduce emissions abroad.
The chief U.S. climate negotiator, Todd Stern, said in a recent speech that the “core imperative has to be to break the link between growth and fossil fuels.”
The energy-efficiency push that has helped to restrain demand in the United States is all but absent in Panama, where gasoline sells for about $4 a gallon. The country has the lowest fuel taxes in Central America. It has no refineries, so it imports all fuel but charges no tariffs on it.
Panama has long been an important player in the global energy trade because of the Panama Canal. And it is positioning itself to be an even bigger conduit for U.S. energy exports when a $5.2 billion, third set of locks is completed next year.
The country plays its own shell game with pollution.
It says it contributes no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere because its sizable forests absorb more than what is released from vehicle tailpipes and deforestation, the biggest sources of climate-altering pollution in the country.
Its accounting includes forests owned by the Guna people on the plus side of the ledger, but it excludes pollution released from three dozen or more oceangoing vessels that pass through the Panama Canal each day, paying about $250,000 per trip.
Ship pollution, which accounts for about 3 percent of global carbon emissions, is not on any country’s balance sheet.
Perhaps no one stands to lose more in Panama than the Guna, who have fiercely protected their primitive way of life on the low-lying archipelago on the Caribbean coast.
In 2012, Guna leaders passed a resolution supporting plans to move the tribe to the mainland. The plans are controversial within the tribe, and any move is several years away.
“It’s our responsibility to prevent a catastrophe,” the resolution said. “Climate change will sooner or later affect the islands.”
Population growth already has.
The school on the island of Gardi Sugdup sacrificed its playground in an expansion to make room for more children. Houses, or pens for chickens and pigs, are built right to the edge of the island, often on fill made from trash and coral used to make more land.
A paper by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in 2003 found that the sea surrounding the archipelago was rising 2 millimeters per year. Using satellite photos, they calculated how much land had already gone underwater from 1966 to 2001. It was about the size of 12 football fields.
The paper also said that the tribe’s practice of harvesting coral to fill in islands and make space for more people exacerbated the problem.
In recent years, hydraulic-fracturing technology has underpinned an American energy revolution, allowing companies to extract oil and natural gas from shale formations where it was once inaccessible. That in turn has led to cheaper natural-gas prices, a feedstock for refiners, and has depressed domestic oil prices because of a 1970s ban on exporting crude oil.
At the same time, policies to address climate change have slackened demand, along with gasoline prices that, until recently, were high. Fuel-economy standards put in place by the Obama administration are leveling off gasoline consumption for the first time. A requirement to add corn-based ethanol to gasoline also has cut into oil’s share of the gasoline market.
Since October 2007, U.S. automobiles have used 15.1 billion fewer gallons of gasoline and diesel, according to Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan. But to meet rising demand in Latin America and elsewhere, the U.S. exported almost seven times that amount, according to U.S. Energy Department data.
The White House said the exports don’t add more carbon to the atmosphere because they replace fuel that would come from someplace else. Sivak agreed that “we are doing the world a net good” by reducing U.S. consumption.
Other experts dispute that. They note that when a source of energy is plentiful and reasonably priced, as is the case with U.S. oil, it tends to increase demand, making other potentially cleaner energy sources less competitive.
It’s a cycle the United States is doing little to break in the world market.
Opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the positions of the Moving Forward Network or its members. All errors are the responsibility of the author.