[Coral-List] Deteriorating ethical norms

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Wed Apr 19 12:46:17 EDT 2017

Hi all:

As a quick follow-up to Peter's well-framed point.... I recently had a
chance to spend two weeks with Oberlin students on a trip that included
visits to three different Chinese "environmental" departments at three
schools across half of the country (yes.... leaving a blazing trail of
carbon behind us). The first was an environmental engineering program in
Bejing. The other two were environmental science programs more in the
interior. The one interesting thing that I learned relative to this thread
is that China's coal imports and exports are roughly *equal* (odd, you may
say?). It turns out that they have huge reserves of "cleaner and more
efficient" coal - as in fewer particulates and a higher generation of BTUs
per ton of emissions. Their economic strategy is to export this to other
countries and bring in equal amounts of "dirtier" coal (as in more sulphur
and lower BTU yields per ton of emissions) from.... you guessed it...
Australia. So, the bottom line here is that China can make money (at
approximately a three-to-one ratio) on this shell game to offset the costs
of further industrialization. We can argue whether the worse player in this
relationship is China for providing a huge and un-needed market, or
Australia for fueling this deal with the devil. The bottom line is that
China has enough "less harmful" coal to meet their needs and that Australia
is complicit by buying into this for purely economic reasons. All of this
gets much worse when we move onto the realities concerning the "decline in
emissions from the 'developed nations", but that's a story for another day.


On Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 10:31 PM, Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca> wrote:

> Hi,
> I do not want to get into lengthy political battles, but had to respond to
> Matt Nolan's question.  He asked: "if Australia didn't export 375 million
> tonnes to meet the demand for coal would some one else not have met that
> demand?"  This is the standard argument against taking any action on GHG
> mitigation, but directed specifically to Australia's incongruous desire to
> keep extracting and exporting coal.  Yes, there are other suppliers of coal
> out there, just as there are other suppliers of oil and gas.  If one
> country ceases to extract fossil fuels that does not automatically reduce
> fuel availability by that same amount, but it does tighten supplies, making
> costs of the fuel greater.  This hastens the move towards renewables which
> are already nearing price parity with fossil fuels in many regions.
> Nolan implies that the world would be better off if responsible countries
> continued to produce fossil fuels.  I suggest a country with responsibility
> for one of the greatest coral reef regions on the planet is perhaps
> particularly well placed to see the absurdity of business as usual given
> the environmental consequences.  True, it requires innovation and
> substantial realignment of a national economy to move way from an industry
> that has been a major contributor to GDP, but responsible governments
> recognize their duty and take difficult steps all the time.
> And before anyone points out the obvious, yes, Canada exports fossil
> fuels, much as Australia does, and some here make exactly the same argument
> for continuing to do so.  We don't have reefs, but we do have a dangerously
> melting Arctic, and we are at last beginning to price carbon and set caps
> on our fossil fuel industry.  Soon enough for me - no - but sooner than if
> we continued to say we must export our 'ethical oil' (that is what the
> previous PM tried to brand the stuff as) in order to prevent other
> countries digging up their oil.
> Reefs and polar bears both benefit if GHGs are reduced as quickly as
> possible.
> Peter Sale
> University of Windsor
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Dennis Hubbard
Chair, Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
(440) 775-8346

* "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
 Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"

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