Tracy Warner, in her column (Bellingham Herald, Jan. 25), with the support of two economists, reasons as follows: "Driving up the price of coal cuts carbon emissions." So if we export coal to China, we will have less coal available to burn, thus driving up the price here so less coal will be burned in the U.S. and Europe, cutting emissions. But if we keep the coal here instead of exporting it to China, "...the price of coal falls..." relative to gas, so more coal will be burned in the U.S. and Europe, leading to more emissions.
In the meantime, even though China shifted in 2009 from exporting coal to importing large quantities because importing coal was cheaper, "China will burn the same amount of coal whether they import it not, the economists say. They have no alternative."
Yes they do. It has recently been in the news (e.g., Reuters.com, Jan. 21) that China has immense quantities of shale gas, which they plan to start exploiting, despite significant difficulties. Further, according to The Economist (Jan. 19-25), China has more than 25 nuclear plants under construction, more than twice as many as any other country.
Thus if we do not export coal to China, it becomes more expensive for the Chinese than it would otherwise have been, leading them to turn more to the alternatives -- including renewables -- more heavily, and make the investments required to make shale gas recoverable.