We Americans often are accused of not keeping up with more "progressive" folks in slashing our use of coal. We're supposed to feel inferior, somehow, because we haven't stopped using the most economical means of generating electricity.
Don't believe it. A few weeks ago, I was among a group of newspaper people listening to an energy policy analyst. She asked us if we knew what country imports the most U.S. coal.
China, you think?
Wrong. It's Germany. Yes, Germany, home to one of the most militant "green" movements in Europe.
While we Americans are shutting down coal-fired power plants right and left, the Germans are building new ones. Twenty-four are under construction right now, the analyst told us.
In fact, Germany is increasing the percentage of its electricity generated at coal-fired power plants. In 2012 the number was 44 percent. Last year it was 45.5 percent.
Numbers ringing a bell in your head? They should: Germany now gets more electricity from coal than we do (at about 43 percent).
Among the most populous countries, coal is by far the most-favored fuel for electricity generation.
China gets 81 percent of its power from coal (and, the last time I heard, was opening a new coal-fired plant every week). India's percentage is 68.
In other words, it doesn't really matter what the U.S. does about coal-fired electricity. We already are becoming a minor player in CO2 emissions (China is the world leader).
And in coal production, we're way behind the Chinese. In 2012, the U.S. mined 935 million tons of coal - slightly more than one-fourth of the Chinese total.
Now, here's the thing: Radical environmentalists from all over the world demand that we Americans stop burning coal. If we do, our electricity costs will skyrocket.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world - including some countries about which the "greens" brag - will be using more coal.
Their power costs will be stable, perhaps even decreasing.
And their economies will have an enormous competitive edge over ours.
Beginning to get the picture? We're being asked to commit economic suicide - and, incredible as it seems, we're doing it.
No wonder many people in the rest of the world have so little regard for us.
Myer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.