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News Analysis: Experts shrug off Trump admin's plan to use naval bases to export coal, gas
Last Updated: 2018-11-01 16:22 | Xinhua
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by Peter Mertz

The plan of the Trump administration to boost fossil fuel production by turning naval bases to export facilities is dead in the water, experts have said.


Politicians, business leaders, and environmentalists have been bashing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's announcement earlier this month to use military bases in a remote, former Navy base in Alaska as a transit point from where U.S. coal and gas would be exported to Asia.

Zinke suggested in an interview with The Associated Press that the long-abandoned base at Adak - a remote island in the Aleutian chain - could be an option as an liquefied natural gas export hub.

He did not name any other specific sites, but suggested the possibility of using "some of our naval facilities, some of our federal facilities" on the West Coast.

Zinke said the trategy is being considered as a way to thwart opposition from leaders in California, Oregon and Washington to allowing export terminals in their states to sell coal or gas to Asia, according to the report.

The move is seen as a way to bypass the gauntlet of environmental regulations and resistance pervasive along America's 3,000-mile (5,100-kilometer) long West Coast.

"Obviously, this is an attempt to work around the American federal system and suppress the right of the states to set environmental standards," said former U.S. State Department official Stewart King.

Republicans, including Montana U.S Senator Steve Gaines, defended the proposal, saying it would, "help Rocky Mountain states like Montana and Wyoming get access to Asian markets."

Opponents of the idea said it's another Trump administration's payback to the heavily Democratic states of California, Oregon, and Washington that border the Pacific Ocean.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement the plan is "trampling" on the rights of West Coast communities.

"Unsurprisingly, the Republicans, who used to be big defenders of states' rights, are now in favor of federal preemption if the states want to do something they don't like," King told Xinhua Monday.


Zinke defended the plan as a "national security matter," because it would supply American allies with cheap energy, but politicians such as Washington State Governor Jay Inslee said it would do the reverse -- actually "undermine" national security.

"The men and women who serve at our military bases are there to keep our country safe, not to service an export facility for private fossil fuel companies," Inslee said.

King, currently a history professor in Oregon, also joined a chorus of experts questioning the feasibility of the idea.

"I wonder about what the defense authorization act and other federal law says about the legitimate uses of federal military facilities," King said.

"I don't know for sure but I would be surprised if private commercial use of federal military facilities is permitted," he said.

Wyden said in a statement that the federal government should "invest in renewable fuels and not try to prop up dirty energy sources such as coal."

Earlier this month, the world's leading climate scientists warned that in 12 years, unless stringent and immediate measures are enacted, global warming will be irreversible.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that with any increased temperatures on Earth, the risk skyrockets for drought, floods, extreme heat, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Inslee blasted Zinke and the Trump administration for pursuing coal exports, despite recent warnings from the Department of Defense that climate change is a growing national security threat.

"It's just more baloney," Washington political insider David Richardson told Xinhua of the "big business proposal."

"I agree with the governor (Inslee) who called the idea 'harebrained' and 'cock-eyed,'" he added.


The naval base proposal pushes the administration's goal of establishing American "energy dominance," and coal exports to Asia have risen significantly in the past 18 months, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

South Korea, Japan, and China were among the biggest recipients of U.S. coal, EIA data said.

While West Coast officials have rejected private-sector efforts to build new coal ports, evoking the ire of coal producing interior U.S states, California environmentalists are saying no go.

"We don't want to entertain this ridiculous notion, and California will not allow it," said Santa Barbara businessman John Ott.

"It's another short-sighted attempt to continue the use of oil and coal. If they do not profit from it, they will not be able to even think of it, let alone propose it," Ott added.

"Local environmentalists are outraged," Ott said. "On the grass-roots level, the Zinke plan is dead," he said.

However, many nationwide leading environmental groups have been officially silent about the plan, with Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Earth First! not responding to Xinhua requests.

Experts said the environmentalists are keeping away from Trump's trick to dominate public opinions.

"The national environmentalist groups have learned about the Trump propaganda machine," Richardson opined.

"The more they talk the more this idea will gain traction, and that's not going to happen," he added.

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News Analysis: Experts shrug off Trump admin's plan to use naval bases to export coal, gas
Source:Xinhua | 2018-11-01 16:22
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