NGOs have accused the US Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank of “systematic bias towards financing fossil fuel projects”, as the export credit agency prepares to consider backing two giant coal-fired power plants.
John Coequyt of the US environment group Sierra Club said: “Instead of financing dirty power projects abroad, the Export-Import Bank should be positioning US companies to lead in a competitive clean-technology market that can create thousands more jobs in the US.”
“The Ex-Im Bank’s ongoing fossil fuel binge indicates a clear unwillingness to adhere to Congressional climate change directives and systematic bias towards financing fossil fuel projects,” said Doug Norlen from Pacific Environment.
The US Congress has issued a mandate instructing its export credit agency to direct 10% of its financing in 2009 and 2010 to renewable energy and other “environmentally beneficial exports”, such as energy efficiency technologies. But the NGOs, including Sierra Club and South Africa-based Groundwork, pointed to a report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) last month which concludes Ex-Im financing “has been well short of the 10% congressional target”.
The GAO analysis of Ex-Im’s data shows renewables made up less than 2% of the ECA’s financings in 2009 and the first half of 2010. Ex-Im did not return requests for comment before press time.
Meanwhile, the Ex-Im board is expected to vote in a September meeting on whether to back the nearly 5,000MW Kusile coal-fired power plant in South Africa. The NGOs calculate that if Kusile is built, it will emit more than 150% of the annual carbon dioxide emissions of all the projects supported by Ex-Im in 2009. The project developer is utility Eskom, behind the 4,800MW Medupi coal power station, which won World Bank financing earlier this year.
“It’s time to invest in the future of these South African communities, and that means funding clean renewable energy, instead of building dirty coal plants in the name of low-income South Africans,” said Bobby Peak, executive director of Groundwork.
A board vote is also expected this autumn on the controversial $450 billion Sasan coal mine and power plant project, which Ex-Im initially rejected.
By. Jess McCabe