If Peabody Energy, SSA Marine and Goldman Sachs really want to stimulate jobs in Washington State, as they claim in their support of the Gateway Pacific project, they can find much better ways to do so than building the sprawling $665 million coal terminal northwest of Bellingham, WA. They could use the money instead to fund energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects, which per dollar invested, would create twice as many jobs at minimum.
Modern coal terminals are highly mechanized facilities, and few workers are needed to operate them. As estimated in official project documents, the Gateway Pacific Terminal would support only 257 steady jobs, including office workers, at full build-out. That’s just one new job for every $2.6 million invested.
Another benefit of clean-energy projects are the savings in energy costs that steadily accrue after completion, which can be recycled through organizations to create even more local jobs, setting up a multiplier effect that stimulates greater prosperity. Such investments also lessen dependence on fickle foreign sources of fossil fuels, whose costs can skyrocket if supply lines are threatened.
Selling this subsidized U.S. coal to Asia, as planned, will help Asian firms generate cheap electrical power, and continue undercutting U.S. manufacturers, causing further job losses here at home.
The much-ballyhooed coal-terminal jobs are a fool’s bargain that should be rejected on economic grounds alone, never mind the obvious impacts. It’s time we stopped feeding such fossil dinosaurs and started investing seriously in U.S. innovators, workers and companies that can help realize our low-carbon future.
Please comment on the economic, energy and environmental benefits and drawbacks of the Gateway Pacific project, and whether it represents the best use of investment dollars.
Find the rest of Daniel Kammen and Michael Riordan’s original article here.