US Ex-Im may back a controversial Vietnamese coal plant

(New York Times, LONG PHU, Vietnam, 26 January 2018) With help from a Kremlin-connected Russian bank, Vietnam is building a coal-fired power plant called Long Phu 1 that will produce an estimated 5.4 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, generating enough electricity to power millions of homes. But the project needs something else first: help from the United States government and the plant’s state-controlled owner has applied for assistance with the project from the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The bank has not yet decided whether it will back the project. If it did, it would show that the Trump administration’s commitment to using more coal at home also extended overseas. Critics say it would also challenge a growing global consensus that developed nations and groups like the World Bank should stop funding high-polluting energy projects in developing countries. Britain’s equivalent of the Export-Import Bank has already declined to participate in the project. In addition, it would provide American backing for a project partly funded by a Russian bank that has endured sanctions by the United States government since 2014 because of Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine. Several advocacy groups say that PetroVietnam’s environmental due diligence underestimated the project’s likely carbon footprint. They also say the project is not clean enough to meet new guidelines from the OECD which has tried to curb lending by government-owned export credit agencies to certain types of coal projects. By approving the project, the United States would be “thumbing our nose to all the other countries that have striven so hard to reach this agreement,” said Doug Norlen, the director of economic policy at Friends of the Earth USA.