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April 13, 2012

What Century is the US Export-Import Bank In?

CoalAs the U.S. Export-Import Bank (ExIm) closed its 1912 - whoops, we mean 2012 - annual conference, it is clear that the future of the 21st century, to them, is coal. Despite giving lip service to clean tech, the bank awarded its prestigious Sub-Saharan exporter of the year award to Black & Veatch for its work on the Kusile coal fired power plant.
 
"Using dirty 20th-century technology, this plant will ensure that South Africa's Highveld continues to exceed limits for dangerous pollutants for decades to come," said Justin Guay, Sierra Club International Climate Program Representative. "Meanwhile, apartheid-era contracts will keep the price of power below market rates for industrialists while forcing South Africans to endure extreme rises in the price of electricity, forcing many of the poor off-the-grid."
 
South Africa isn't the only place where ExIm is embracing coal. Reliance Power CEO J.P. Chalasani sat on the "Opportunities in India" panel. Reliance received over $800 million in U.S. taxpayer financing for its Sasan coal-fired plant, despite challenges around land acquisition and the cover-up of a smokestack collapse that killed at least 30 workers. Now Reliance's Krishnapatnam coal-fired power plant has stopped construction and could face 11 lawsuits because the high price of coal has made the plant unviable.
 
However, ExIm did provide perplexing support for clean technology. There even was a clean energy panel, which openly acknowledged that off-grid renewable energy is lucrative, better capable of addressing energy poverty, and less vulnerable to international fossil fuel price fluctuations. "While ExIm has dramatically increased its renewable energy financing, we are confident that the bank will continue miss the Congressionally-mandated 10% renewable energy target that would help make the U.S. competitive in this emerging global market," said Doug Norlen, Policy Director for Pacific Environment.
 
Nicole Ghio, Campaign Liaison for the Sierra Club. summed up the conference: "Aside from the unexpected, albeit cursory, nod to clean technology that could help reduce energy poverty and ensure a safe and healthy future for generations to come, it is clear that ExIm is working to keep the U.S. in the 20th century for another 100 years."

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