Iron Ore, Coal Export Fueled By China; Can Oakland Benefit?

The discussion of energy in Oakland has become more policized than it should be. For example, the planned Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal is a multi-modal facility designed to serve the Pacific Rim’s demand, particularly India and China.

But, because of the rightful concern about climate change, combined with a lack of understanding of what makes energy and its impact on the environment, and and a ton of fake news, the OBOT is called a “coal factory” when it’s not. The City of Oakland, politically driven by a billionaire former coal industry entrepreneur who’s now an investor in San Francisco Bay Area real estate, has attempted to stop the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT), despite a set of explicit Oakland-approved plans and permissions to build it going back almost 20 years.

What OBOT presents is Oakland and America’s best chance to capitalize on overseas demand for iron ore and coal – the two main elements in the production of steel.

China, followed by Japan and India, makeup the largest producers of steel in the World. Because of their collective, increasing demand for iron ore and coal, exports have increased – and to record levels for coal in America, while Australia’s iron ore and coal shipments have posted notable numbers, as well.

Right now, America has Mobile, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New Orleans – all on or near the eastern United States – as its leading iron ore exporters. Adding Oakland to that list in the form of OBOT would produce the only west coast chance to generates jobs and eonomic development.

As Hellenic Shipping News reports:

“US coal exports totaled 104.9 million mt in 2018, up 19.3% from 2017 and the second highest total on record, according to US Census data out.
The 2018 total was second only to the 114.2 million mt exported in 2012.
US producers benefited in 2018 from strong international markets, which helped increase demand. US thermal coal typically trades at a discount to global benchmarks because of higher sulfur content, while US metallurgical coal is particularly valued for its coking properties. In addition, a number of US thermal coal producers benefited from a partial petcoke ban in India, which also stoked demand.
For comparison, the S&P Global Platts CIF ARA assessment, for thermal coal (basis 6,000 kcal/kg) delivered into Northern Europe averaged $91.69/mt in 2018 compared with $84.78/mt in 2017, while the Platts assessment for Premium Low Vol met coal FOB Australia averaged $207.11/mt in 2018 compared with $187.99/mt in 2017.
US met coal exports for the year totaled 55.8 million mt, up 11.3% from last year, and the highest total since 2014, when 57.2 million mt were exported. Met coal exports peaked in 2012 at 63.4 million mt.”

The Reality: Technology Can Deliver Iron Ore, Coal Exports Cleanly In OBOT

Lost in the anti-intellectual, and all-too simplistic left-right debate that’s come to surround OBOT is the fact that the developers are not “climate deniers” and their project brings the latest technology to bear on the problem of sending minerals from rail to ship, cheaply and cleanly. And perhaps that’s how we should think about the entire energy conservation: how to use technology to build facilities that bridge the gap between old energy opportunities and new age concerns.

Stay tuned.

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