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Activists, academics push back against Thailand-US coal purchase contract

Thailand's move to buy 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes of coal from the U.S. received strong opposition from academics and activists, The Nation (Thailand) reported Oct. 4.

Environmental advocates and academics pushed back against the sales agreement, citing what they called high transport costs, low domestic demand for coal in Thailand and the impact the sale would have on international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the report said.

"I still have not seen the details of this deal yet but it is sure to be a huge reverse on global efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels and against the global trend that has been moving on toward renewable energy," the report quoted Tara Buakamsri of Greenpeace South East Asia as saying. "President [Donald] Trump has made it clear that it is his policy to bring back the US coal industry to its former glory and this is one of his plans — but in my opinion he cannot resist the global renewable energy trend, and this will harm our country's effort to reduce its carbon footprint."

This was supported by Kulayos Udomwongseri, director of the Chulalongkorn University's Energy Research Institute, who suggested the deal might not make business sense.

Kulayos said it would only be worth it if the U.S. could provide very high quality coal. "Then it would be worth spending a lot of money transporting it across the Pacific Ocean — but Thailand already gets quality coal from Indonesia and Australia," he was quoted as saying.

He further noted that the country's own coal-fired power plants had enough supply, and many even had contracts to supply coal to overseas buyers, the report said.