Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 11th 2014 Contents BG8 | ENERGY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt DECEMBER 2014 • WEEK TWO
Solar panels glisten from every
thatched hut on this crowd-
ed island, one of the largest
in this remote chain off the
Panamanian coast. But the
tiny emblems of green ener-
gy offer no hope against cli-
They have helped the island s Guna people
reduce what was already a minuscule carbon
footprint. The Guna cook with clean-burning
gas. They use a small amount of diesel fuel to
power fishing boats and a generator that lights
bare bulbs dangling above dirt floors after sun-
set. They own one of the most pristine stretches
of tropical rainforest in Panama, cleansing the
atmosphere of carbon dioxide naturally.
But larger forces threaten to uproot them,
stemming from the failure by the rest of the
world to rein in carbon emissions.
Pollution linked to global warming keeping
rising even though the world s two largest car-
bon polluters have pledged to combat climate
change, with the US committing to deeper
cuts and China saying its emissions will stop
growing by 2030.
It s a dangerous trajectory the US is stoking
with record exports of dirty fuels, even as it
reduces the pollution responsible for global
warming at home.
The carbon embedded in those exports helps
the US meet its political goals by taking it off
its pollution balance sheet. But it doesn t nec-
essarily help the planet.
That s because he US is sending more dirty
fuel than ever to other parts of the world,
where efforts to address the resulting pollution
are just getting underway, if advancing at all.
While the exported fuel has gotten cleaner, in
the case of diesel, about 20 per cent of the
exports are too dirty to burn here.
For the Guna, as carbon rises, so will the
seas that imperil them. Several communities
have plans to relocate to the mainland, fleeing
severe floods and storms that have drowned
some islands and divided others in half.
"We conserve. Others consume," said Guiller-
mo Archibold, an agronomist and former del-
egate to the Guna tribal congress.
Under President Barack Obama, the US has
reduced more carbon pollution from energy
than any other nation, about 475 million tonnes
between 2008 and 2013, according to US Energy
Less than one-fifth of that amount came
from burning less gasoline and diesel, pri-
marily in vehicles. But an Associated Press
analysis of the data shows that US exports
of gasoline and diesel more than made up
for the savings at home in pollution abroad,
releasing roughly more than 1 billion tonnes
of carbon pollution into the atmosphere else-
where during the same period.
"It s a false image," said Onel Masardule of
the Indigenous People s Biocultural Climate
Change Assessment Initiative, a Peru-based
environmental group that recently studied the
Guna and climate change. "In reality, the US
is still contaminating."
Among the recipients is Panama, where
imports of diesel and gasoline from the US
have nearly quadrupled since 2008.
Panama is the largest recipient of diesel fuel
that is dirtier and more carbon-laden than
would be allowed in engines in the US, but
the fuel ends up in cars and trucks that don t
have the same efficiency standards and are not
regularly inspected and maintained, an AP
investigation has found. Panama s requirement
that drivers test emissions, including for carbon
dioxide, are almost completely ignored.
This fossil fuel trade has soared under Obama
as he has overseen a domestic boom in oil and
natural gas production and ordered the biggest
increases in fuel economy in history.
In 2010, the US still imported more products
refined from oil than it exported. A year later,
it was a bigger exporter than importer, the first
time that happened since 1949. In 2012, these
products were the single largest US export,
worth $117 billion, according to US Commerce
The boom has helped the US reduce oil
imports and create jobs in oil fields and ports.
Without it, the Obama administration would
be much further from a goal to double US
exports. The trade deficit would be wider.
But for global warming, it means that, at
the very least, the US is making a smaller dent
than it claims on global warming.
In the case of gasoline and diesel, the US
is exporting far more abroad than it has reduced
in domestic consumption in recent years
through steps such as efficiency standards and
blending gasoline with ethanol.
"This is their hidden success story that they
would like to keep hidden," said Kevin Book,
a Washingtonne, DC-based energy analyst.
Since 2012, he has been a member of the
National Petroleum Council, an advisory group
selected by the US energy secretary.
"It has done a lot to improve our balance
of trade standing, but it is not the most climate
friendly way to do it. There is no way to avoid
that there is a bigger emissions impact when
you have more to combust," Book said.
There is no clear accounting of what Amer-
ica s growth as a fossil-fuel powerhouse is
doing to the global warming picture. The
administration has chosen not to get to the
bottom of that.
US projects that increase energy exports
could be considered in such an analysis, such
as huge terminals planned for the West Coast
to send more coal abroad for power plants.
Trade agreements could factor in the impli-
cations of energy trade on global warming.
But not one trade pact negotiated by the Obama
White House mentions global warming.
"They have the responsibility of analyzing
America s exports on fossil fuel demand and
consumption and climate," said Lorne Stockman
of Oil Change International, an advocacy group
dedicated to moving away from fossil fuels.
"There has to be a holistic analysis of what
those exports are and what role they are going
to play in keeping the world within the climate
The White House said it is working to
strengthen environmental provisions in trade
agreements and lower tariffs on technologies
that ultimately will reduce emissions abroad.
Fuel to the fire?
Exports soar under Obama
Continued on Page 21
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