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August 02, 2013

Is the Export-Import Bank Turning Over a New Leaf?

CoalPlant

Credit: Greenpeace/Hunt
On July 18, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) gave an encouraging signal that it would be taking President Obama's Climate Action Plan to heart.

In line with the president's call to end U.S. government support for coal-fired power plants abroad, delivered in a speech at Georgetown University on June 25, Ex-Im announced that it would not be funding the proposed Thai Binh II coal-fired power plant in Vietnam.

This is great news. Historically, Ex-Im has financed many fossil fuel projects, including coal projects in South Africa and India, and a liquefied natural gas project in Papua New Guinea. While Ex-Im’s finance for renewable energy exports has increased in recent years, the bank still continues to fall short of the congressionally mandated 10 percent target for renewable energy and environmentally beneficial exports.

The Sierra Club is thrilled that the president's Climate Action Plan is setting a new norm for the financing of energy projects abroad, and we expect Ex-Im to continue moving in this positive direction and to make its dirty, unsustainable financing of fossil fuels a thing of the past.

Ex-Im, of course, values American jobs, and so does the president's Climate Action Plan. Exporting renewable energy and environmentally beneficial exports is good for business, and it also plays an important role in creating American jobs in the clean energy sector. As Obama's Climate Action Plan points out, investment in clean energy has the potential to create new American jobs. Further, clean, renewable energy has the potential to power rural areas today without waiting for costly grid extensions that will likely never reach parts of the world currently without power.      

Ending the finance of coal with public funds and ramping up investments in clean energy is a smart strategy, and the Sierra Club applauds Ex-Im for moving in this direction. Still, Ex-Im needs to extend its moratorium on coal to all types of projects. Just this week, the Sierra Club joined a coalition of environmental groups to sue Ex-Im over the bank's failure to review the domestic impacts of Xcoal's plan to export coal from Appalachia. Our hope is that, with new policies in place, Ex-Im will reject dirty projects like Thai Binh II and coal exports that endanger communities here at home and abroad.

--Vrinda Manglik, Sierra Club International Campaign Intern

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