U.S. de­fends fos­sil fu­els, nu­clear power

Cli­mate sum­mit in coal coun­try

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GE­OFF HILL

KA­TOW­ICE, POLAND | Pres­i­dent Trump may be pulling the United States out of the global Paris Ac­cord on global warm­ing, but the ad­min­is­tra­tion is mak­ing a hard sell for its side of the story at the gi­ant U.N. cli­mate sum­mit now un­der­way in the heart of Poland’s coal-pro­duc­ing re­gion.

With del­e­gates from rich and poor nations strug­gling to reach a con­sen­sus on writ­ing the rule book for re­duc­ing emis­sions and bat­tling cli­mate change, U.S. of­fi­cials and pri­vate-sec­tor representatives are or­ga­niz­ing a ma­jor side event Mon­day on the con­tin­ued role of fos­sil fu­els and nu­clear power. The pre­sen­ta­tion is sim­i­lar to one a year ago that an­gered many green groups that have clus­tered here.

En­ergy Depart­ment of­fi­cial Wells Grif­fith III will lead the event, billed as a show­case of “ways to use fos­sil fu­els as cleanly and ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble,” along with nu­clear en­ergy.

An event at last year’s gath­er­ing in Ger­many, led by then White House en­ergy ad­viser Ge­orge David Banks, drew a protest from en­vi­ron­men­tal groups. Pro­test­ers stood in the au­di­ence while singing and wav­ing plac­ards.

Mr. Banks told The Wash­ing­ton Times that many of those ad­vo­cat­ing an end to fos­sil fu­els “do not un­der­stand the po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity fac­ing much of the world.”

COP-24, as this year’s sum­mit is of­fi­cially known, has at­tracted more than 30,000 del­e­gates from 196 coun­tries but fewer heads of state than other years.

The State Depart­ment says the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has sent a 40-plus-mem­ber del­e­ga­tion to Ka­tow­ice “to pro­tect U.S. eco­nomic and other in­ter­ests and en­sure a level play­ing field for Amer­i­can busi­ness and work­ers.” Vet­eran diplo­mat Judy Gar­ber, a for­mer am­bas­sador to Latvia re­cently nom­i­nated to be am­bas­sador to Cyprus, is serv­ing as the chief U.S. ne­go­tia­tor.

In an­nounc­ing the U.S. with­drawal from the Paris cli­mate agree­ment last year, Mr. Trump has said he is open to re­join­ing the Paris treaty if terms are al­tered to make it “more fa­vor­able to the Amer­i­can peo­ple.” The violent protests that have rocked France in re­ac­tion to Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s pro­posed gas tax to re­duce car­bon emis­sions this week have proved an ill-timed blow to those who crit­i­cized the U.S. with­drawal.

A stick­ing point at the Pol­ish gath­er­ing has been a pro­posed fund of $100 bil­lion per year, fi­nanced by de­vel­oped coun­tries to help poorer nations ad­just to cli­mate change. Thus far, lit­tle money has come for­ward.

Dif­fi­cult po­si­tion

Even as cli­mate stud­ies point to a con­tin­u­ing rise in global tem­per­a­tures and more ex­treme weather pat­terns, U.S. of­fi­cials say trends in global en­ergy since the 2015 Paris deal was signed only re­in­forced Mr. Trump’s ar­gu­ments that the top-down, U.N.-led process has se­ri­ous flaws that hand­i­cap the U.S. econ­omy while go­ing easy on ma­jor pol­luters such as China and In­dia.

Mr. Banks said a de­pen­dence on Rus­sian gas put East­ern Euro­pean coun­tries in a dif­fi­cult po­si­tion. Re­ly­ing on a lo­cal power source may be the only re­al­is­tic op­tion for many.

“Look at what has hap­pened in Ukraine with the Rus­sian an­nex­a­tion of Crimea and you re­al­ize how im­por­tant it is for the re­gion to have its own power sup­ply,” he said. “In Poland, it comes from coal. Oth­ers use nu­clear, but they must have baseload power to cope with a very cold cli­mate. And it must be un­der their control.”

He said more than 600 mil­lion peo­ple in Africa lived with­out ac­cess to the grid. “The U.S. rightly sees that as a se­cu­rity is­sue be­cause, with­out power, there can be no in­dus­try and few jobs, and this is a fac­tor in driv­ing young peo­ple to join mili­tia and ter­ror groups.”

Mr. Banks, who will travel to Poland for the fi­nal week of the cli­mate sum­mit, ar­gued that “Wash­ing­ton has a mes­sage that is not in any way anti-en­vi­ron­ment.”

“Quite the op­po­site,” he said. “Across Africa and Asia, a lack of elec­tric­ity is the rea­son peo­ple cut down trees for fire­wood. More en­ergy is good for the planet, but it should be done cleanly. This in­cludes wind and so­lar, but also nu­clear and the new sci­ence of clean coal.”

Mr. Banks said he was look­ing for­ward to dis­cus­sions with other coun­tries on shar­ing tech­nol­ogy to use fos­sil fuel more cleanly. “We are not alone in this and need to en­gage with In­dia, Ja­pan, Aus­tralia and any­one else.”

Iron­i­cally, the U.N. gath­er­ing that is largely seen as hos­tile to a fu­ture of fos­sil-fuel-based en­ergy is tak­ing place in a bas­tion of coal pro­duc­tion in the heart of Poland. Many lo­cal res­i­dents say the idea of switch­ing to an al­ter­na­tive fuel would dev­as­tate the lo­cal econ­omy and un­der­mine the lo­cal cul­ture. Poland re­lies on coal for about 80 per­cent of its en­ergy needs.

At the Pol­ish stand at the sum­mit, Ka­tow­ice Mayor Marcin Krupa posed for pho­tos in front of a col­umn of coal taken from mines near the town and de­fended his re­gion’s most valu­able nat­u­ral re­source.

“Coal may be black, but that doesn’t mean we are not green,” he said. “That’s our theme: ‘Black to green.’ Min­ing and in­dus­try fund this re­gion, and we use that money to cre­ate parks and forests.”

He said he hoped the meet­ing would draw at­ten­tion to Ka­tow­ice and at­tract in­vestors. From a low base when Rus­sian troops with­drew in 1992, Poland is now the eighth largest econ­omy in Europe.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin de­clined to at­tend. Mr. Macron’s sched­uled ad­dress ear­lier this week was scrubbed as he dealt with the fuel tax cri­sis back home.

While U.S. of­fi­cials are mak­ing their pitch, Pres­i­dent Trump could not re­sist a dig at Mr. Macron’s po­lit­i­cal woes.

“I am glad that my friend @Em­manuelMacron and the pro­test­ers in Paris have agreed with the con­clu­sion I reached two years ago,” he tweeted Wed­nes­day. “The Paris Agree­ment is fa­tally flawed be­cause it raises the price of en­ergy for re­spon­si­ble coun­tries while white­wash­ing some of the worst pol­luters in the world.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.