By John Stark
A new report from Greenpeace argues that recent Chinese demand for imported coal may be a short-term phenomenon, and coal and shipping companies may be making an expensive mistake if they invest in export facilities that may not be needed.
The Greenpeace report is full of charts and graphs that make a serious case for the view that even China is beginning to turn away from coal-fired power, for all the usual reasons: environmental woes and public outrage over pollution, and increased Chinese investment in alternative fuels.
Of course, the coal industry and SSA Marine, the Gateway Pacific proponent, have a different view of the future. Is there any chance that coal guys and shipping guys have a better read on coal export market potential than Greenpeace guys?
Maybe. It also seems to me that there are enough unknowns in this situation to make it impossible for anyone to know for sure how much US coal the Chinese may want when and if Gateway Pacific is up and running in four? five? six? years. All the data is in the past. It doesn’t predict the future.
Not so many years ago, BP went through a long and costly process to obtain permits to build a big natural gas-fired power plant next to the Cherry Point refinery. By the time that the process was complete, market conditions had changed and BP elected not to build the power plant.