British Columbia is in the middle of a crescendo of thermal coal exports.
We are increasing our yearly coal export capacity from 49 million tonnes in 2010 to 94.5 million tonnes by 2015.
We have three coal-export terminals in B.C., which mostly export metallurgical coal from the 10 mines within our province. All three terminals have been given approval to increase their coal handling capacity. Texada Island would receive coal from a proposed fourth terminal currently under review.
We donít export coal to full capacity, but three things are changing that: the appetite for thermal coal from Asia, the abundant supply of coal from the United States and Alberta, and the encouragement from senior levels of government.
Once known primarily for our export of high quality B.C. metallurgical coal used in making steel, we are fast becoming a coal pipeline for lower quality U.S. and Alberta thermal coal to Asia, with almost no discussion about its local, regional or global impact.
B.C.ís coal exports have remained relatively constant over the past two decades. Clearly the purpose of this increased capacity is to ship thermal coal from the United States and Alberta to feed Asiaís appetite as it grows.
This could mean that in seven years, thermal coal exports of U.S. and Alberta coal from B.C. could go from five to eight million tonnes per year to 67 million tonnes per year.
As British Columbians, we are practising willful ignorance if we donít calculate or at least acknowledge the contributions the expansion of thermal coal exports have on global greenhouse gas emissions.
By investing in thermal coal export infrastructure, we are not only expanding the amount of thermal coal we would be exporting, we are expanding the lifespan of cheap coal ó†an energy source we should be doing everything we can to quit.
Nicholas Simons, MLA Powell River-Sunshine Coast