The Eugene City Council decided to wait until after its summer break to weigh on on coal trains, but the Coos Bay World does’t think Eugene should have an opinion at all on the issue.
In an editoral published July 18, the World says Eugene should keep its “big nose” out of coal exports and “butt out” of the global energy and climate change issue.
Our view: The Eugene City Council has no business dictating international energy markets.
Riddle: What’s the difference between God and the Eugene City Council?
Answer: God doesn’t think he’s the Eugene City Council.
Eugene has yearned for decades to dictate national energy policy. In 1986, it declared itself a ‘Nuclear Free Zone.” Now the council is talking about using health and safety laws to block coal trains’ passage through town.
This kind of self-important pushiness is why America’s founders put Congress in charge of interstate commerce. When every provincial politician can regulate trade, we all starve.
Admittedly, coal trains are a serious issue. If Coos Bay builds a coal terminal, enormous chains of rail cars will haul Asia-bound Wyoming coal through many Western communities. Opponents warn of air pollution, black lung and derailments, caused by coal dust falling from train cars.
Regulators and railroads, answering market demand, are attacking these problems. A sticky spray called a ‘surfacant” reportedly reduces dust emissions by 85 percent. Covered cars may be better still.
But never mind. Eugene’s real objection to coal trains isn’t coal dust. It’s global climate change. Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy told The Register-Guard, ‘… we live in global society and the effects of our decisions are felt far beyond our borders.”
That’s true. But what gives Eugene the right to decide what Wyoming will mine and what Asia will burn?
Moreover, the morality of coal exports is not as simple as it may sound. Ask:
If Asia can’t get North American fuel, what will it burn instead?
How might fuel exports affect America’s balance of trade?
How about U.S. economic strength and strategic alliances?
How does affordable energy affect health and quality of life in developing nations?
These are big questions for federal regulators, Congress and the free market. The Eugene City Council should butt out.
What does give Eugene the right? Coal train opponents argue it’s that the trains will be going through town, past farms and through wild areas.