The Obama administration took a giant step forward on clean energy last year when it ordered the Export-Import Bank to stop funding coal plants abroad.
Unfortunately, this progress could be undone if Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., push through a provision that would allow the bank to resume the dirty energy projects that have decimated the environment and wreaked havoc on communities around the world.
Since President Barack Obama took office, the bank has ramped up its spending on fossil fuels, with funding soaring nearly fivefold since 2009. During that time, the bank has permitted a coal plant at the Great Barrier Reef and another in India whose emissions were equal to a fifth of all U.S. coal plants combined. Outlays for renewables, meanwhile, have barely budged.
The bank’s new policy last year seemed to signal an end to this dark era. It seemed only natural that the administration, which had begun tightening the screws on coal plants in the United States, would do the same abroad.
But if Sen. Manchin is successful at putting his imprint on the bank’s reauthorization, its support for fossil fuels will be sanctioned once again. It is disturbing that such a routine vote could contain such dangerous consequences for the environment. It seems lawmakers just cannot stop using the bank to prop up the coal industry. If efforts like Sens. Manchin and Kirk’s continue, the role of the Export-Import Bank must be seriously re-examined — for good.
Co-founder, Democracy Partners
Chair, American Family Voices