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Why did the elephant wear a green felt hat?

Posted by KC Golden at Jan 10, 2012 12:50 PM |
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It’s hardly surprising that the coal industry would want to conceal the nature and immensity of its export schemes. Once folks know what they’re really up to, they’ll have the thankless task of convincing us that we’ll be better off letting our communities become conveyor belts and launching platforms for an epic expansion of global fossil fuel trafficking.

Why did the elephant wear a green felt hat?

KC Golden, Policy Director


By KC Golden

Climate Solutions

Why did the elephant wear a green hat?

So it could sneak across pool tables without anyone noticing.

 

It’s hardly surprising that the coal industry would want to conceal the nature and immensity of its export schemes. Once folks know what they’re really up to, they’ll have the thankless task of convincing us that we’ll be better off letting our communities become conveyor belts and launching platforms for an epic expansion of global fossil fuel trafficking. 

And since even the best marketing consultants won’t be able to sell us that load of, er, coal, they’ll have to spend a lot more money buying lawyers, greasing palms, unseating public officials who get in their way…and all of that could get terribly expensive.

So it would be much simpler and cheaper to just conceal their plans. Maybe if nobody sees the elephant under the green felt hat, they won’t notice it crushing the pool table.  And with the communication budget they’re throwing at this thing, they can do a lot better than just a little hat.  Heck, they can swaddle the whole darn elephant in green felt and buy enough beer for everyone in the pool hall to see double.

The thing is…. it’s still an elephant.  Given the immensity of the beast, trying to hide it is more than just deceptive and unethical, it’s downright lame. And yet it is exactly what Big Coal is trying to do.

In Longview, coal terminal developers had to withdraw their permits after the disclosure of emails showing that they deliberately deceived local decision-makers by applying for a permit to ship 5 million tons of coal a year when they had plans to ship up to 80 million tons.  

Up north of Bellingham at Cherry Point, coal port developers have mailed out at least two glossy promotions to every single resident of Whatcom County for the proposed “Gateway Pacific Terminal”. 

Sounds picturesque, doesn’t it? By reading their materials, you can learn all about the jobs they promise, the tax revenues they will generate and the developers’ (industry-sponsored) environmental awards.  

What you won’t learn from their materials is what they actually propose to do:  ship up to 48 million tons of coal per year – that’s 20 coal trains, each over a mile long, carrying over 150,000 tons of coal through dozens of communities to the terminal site every day.

And since they don’t talk about the coal, they sure as Babar don’t talk about the enormous climate impacts of the scheme, the disruption to local traffic due to coal trains, the expected increases in heart and lung disease or the predictable job losses that will occur in all the communities that experience these impacts.

If you really dig on their website, you can find a mention of plans to “... ship dry bulk commodities such as grain, potash and coal to Asian markets.” But here’s the scam:   the proposed project is actually two terminals. One terminal could handle 6 million tons a year of grain, potash and other commodities, but the developer (SSA Marine) doesn’t anticipate actually building it for at least 10 years because there is no demand for it. 

The other terminal would handle up to 48 million tons per year of coal, making it the largest coal terminal in North America.  Peabody Coal has already committed to half that capacity.

So here we have a green felt hat in the form of a small hypothetical bulk terminal sitting on top of the elephant of the coal terminal.  In this case, you need to use your imagination because it’s an invisible green felt hat; they don’t really plan to build it

Why would they keep doing this when they know it’s ultimately futile to hide the elephant?

Because they have no choice. They can’t possibly sell the proposition on its merits. They’ll never convince us that we’ll be better off if they dig up half of Montana and Wyoming, ship it on miles and miles of slow, toxic trains every day through the heart of our region and use it to stoke coal plants in Asia that will drive the world over the cliff of dangerous climate change.   

So they will hide their intentions, surround themselves in lawyers, buy slick ads and robo-calls, dismiss talk of elephants as silly and try to bully us into averting our attention from what this scheme really means.

But when all is said and done, they don’t have much more than a green felt hat,… and the hope that maybe we’ll give up, close our eyes and say “What elephant?”

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