If the coal terminal is built out to its full capacity to handle 48 million metric tons of coal, we’d be Number One. The biggest coal export terminal in North America.
If coal export were the Super Bowl, we’d get the Vince Lombardi Trophy. If coal were a song, Whatcom County would go platinum. If coal were anything other than coal, the project sponsors would be sending out press releases: Whatcom County will be Number One!
But coal is –
--coal. Lumps of dirty stuff that you burn. Or rather, that they burn in China, but that Washington is trying not to, any more.
What made me think about our potential coal port exceptionalism was the statement at the end of this article: “The proposed [Cherry Point] facility would be twice the size of the largest coal shipping terminal on North America's West Coast, Westshore in Vancouver, British Columbia.”
Twice the size, I thought. Really? And if Westshore is merely the largest “on the West Coast,” where is the Very Biggest Coal Port of All?
I thought that would be easy to find out. I thought that a Google search would take me to a nice list of coal ports in a matter of seconds. It didn’t work that way. But what happened was even more interesting – I wound up in the middle of a bunch of article from Coal Age, an on-line version of a trade journal.
I love trade journals. I love it when they try to use colorful language. What could be more lyrical than this description of the forces opposing increased coal export facilities on the west coast?
“[Peabody Energy and Arch Coal] will have to win a fierce and potentially defining regulatory battle to build the ports as legions of enraged enviro-zealots gird their hemp-laced loins at the thought of dirty American coal being sent to even dirtier Asian power plants across the blue sea.”
If Hemingway were writing about coal, isn’t that what he’d say?
But what I like even more about trade journals is their hard-headed view of the world, which makes them a great source of information and insights. I’m going to blog about what I learned from Coal Age someday.
In the meantime, though, where is the Biggest North American Coal Port of All?
Representing Canada, the contender is:
Westshore: 29 million metric tons per year, according to its website. (So Cherry Point wouldn’t be twice as big. Only 1.7 times as big.)
Representing the United States is:
Hampton Roads, Newport News, Virgina: 32 million metric tons, according to this article in Coal Age.
The Westshore figure didn’t have a date. Maybe it’s outdated, and the foxy Canadians have out-coaled us. But based on 2010 figures, at least, the American champion and still All-North-American Largest Coal Port is. . .Hampton Roads.
The Cherry Point terminal would be one and a half times bigger. Thanks to Whatcom County, the title of “largest coal exporting facility” would stay here in the United States. Take that, Canada!
What does the largest coal port in North America look like? Here are some pictures.
What does the second-largest coal port in North America look like? Here are some pictures.
What will our future look like, when we’re Number One?
Well, one thing that we know is that there will be more coal.