Should the U.S. government allow anybody to ship coal to China?

Brandan S., Age 15, St. Stephen’s College

KYP Advanced Global Thinking Course


Topic: Should the U.S. government allow anybody to ship coal to China?

Nowadays, one of the major sources of energy and fuel is coal. Coal has been used by countries like China. Other countries like Australia, India and the United States also have coal exports as one of their main industries. Some people might oppose the coal exports to Asia because they think their options are environmentally friendly, sagacious, and morally correct. However, if we can take a closer look at reality, we will find multiple problems if the U.S. government bans the export of coal.

Firstly, even though countries like China have been developing very quickly with their advancing economy and global trades, China and other developing countries will need coal for energy supply in the future. There are still a lot of poor people in China and they cannot afford the expensive gas supply. In fact, they do not have a choice on whether they should consume coal for electricity and heat. If the U.S. government bans the coal exports to China, imagine how many people will have to use the poor quality of coal that is shipped from India or that is produced locally in China. This will seriously affect their lives.

Secondly, coal exports to China, India and south-east Asia are crucial to the U.S. economy. The U.S. stock markets will definitely tremble at even a slight slowdown in China. Why should Americans slow down their economy while other countries like Australia are getting all the business? People say coal increases the rate of global warming and therefore it should be banned. However, the truth is we cannot ban coal. Australia will be more than happy to take over the billions the Americans leave on the table if the U.S. government really bans coal exports.

Some might argue that banning coal exports can reduce its consumption and alleviate the pressure of global warming. This is wrong. Removing American coal supplies from the market will not reduce consumption; instead the prices of coal are very likely to increase. It will also encourage coal mining in less safe jurisdictions like black markets.

I agree that the environmental, health and safety impacts of coal mining are immense. However, poor countries are not oblivious to coal’s negative impact, but they still need it to improve the standard of living for their citizens. Why not provide these countries with the high quality American coal that is mined according to the tough environmental and safety guidelines, creating well-paying jobs and prosperous communities in this community?

And why not encourage them to use the latest coal burning and scrubber technologies to reduce air pollutants? Additionally, there’s this “leadership” argument that if we “take a stand” and “send a message’ that coal is bad, we make ourselves proud. coal is not just a much-loathed rock we can toss aside. It is part of the fabric of our human existence. We have “a complex relationship with coal built over a millennium.” We cannot rashly cut it out overnight. Is it right for us to impose such hardships on our fellow human beings while presenting no current practical alternatives?

In conclusion, I believe that the U.S. government should not ban the export of coal because it affects the lives of the people who rely on coal energy, slows down the U.S. economy and that banning coal exports does not solve the problem of excess consumption. In fact, it worsens the already dire situation. Therefore, coal exports should not be banned.

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