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Pre 2012 Archives

Coal trains carry death to the Philippines

By Steve Ludwig and Roger Rigor

On Dec. 3, 2012, “Bopha” hit the southern Philippine island of Mindanao as a category-5 typhoon. Residents were stunned. While tropical storm Washi had caused severe flooding and left 1200 dead in 2011, no one could remember a storm the likes of Bopha. “We never thought this would happen to us. Our ancestors, our grandparents – it never happened to them,” Remy Camarling reported to BBC News (he had lost his wife and his two children were hospitalized). The number of people killed by Bopha will likely surpass Washi’s toll, and damages will be over one billion U.S. dollars, making Bopha the most destructive storm ever to hit the Philippines.

Because of the typhoon’s strength and unusual southern track, many are pointing to global warming as a contributing factor. Ironically, the storm was raging as the the UN Conference for Climate Change in Doha, Qatar was being held and where industrialized nations practically snubbed an urgent appeal for action by developing countries like the Philippines. Japanese researchers have predicted a ten-fold increase in super typhoons by the year 2100 if “business-as-usual” attitudes allow current warming trends to continue. Can the people of the Philippines withstand such an onslaught?

Peabody Coal, in partnership with BNSF Railroad and SSA Marine, wants to help us find out. As coal sales in the U.S. fall, Peabody plans to keep its profits up by extending sales to Asian markets. Already, three or four coal trains make their way each day up our Puget Sound coastline to be exported from Canadian ports. A proposed new coal port near Bellingham would double or triple that number. Marketing surplus coal has already depressed coal prices and caused energy companies around the world to postpone switching to cleaner, but more expensive, sources of power.

Is a different future possible? States such as Vermont and California are proving that clean energy sources, lower greenhouse gas emissions and more jobs can coexist. Surely Washington can follow their example. For the sake of the Philippines and all of us – Stop Peabody’s coal trains!

Steve Ludwig and Roger Rigor are members of the Philippine – U.S. Solidarity Organization and PSARA members

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