We finally have a chance to level the playing field for American workers and manufacturers who have been victims of a system that’s been rigged against them on a worldwide basis.

American industry is among the cleanest on earth. But the current rules of world trade place us at a disadvantage to filthier foreign competitors.

American power plants must meet stringent air quality regulations. American manufacturers must have scrubbers on their smokestacks. Even a small cabinetmaker shop in downtown L.A. is required to capture the vapors that come from applying shellac to a piece of furniture.

Meanwhile, Chinese industry is a trifecta of pollution. Their power plants burn the filthiest coal. Their factories dump pollution straight into the air. Adding insult to injury, the goods from those factories are loaded onto ships that burn the dirtiest fuel on earth.

The giant container vessels that carry all that Made in China stuff across the Pacific burn a pitch black, sludge-like gunk known as “bunker oil.” It’s loaded with sulfur, a chemical responsible for childhood asthma, heart disease and acid rain. It will kill you.

It’s estimated that one container ship can produce the same amount of pollution as 50 million cars. Fifteen of these mega-ships out-pollute all the cars in the world.

Starting next year, these transcontinental ships are required to start using cleaner, low-sulfur fuel. The changeover was announced a long time ago, and both the shipping industry and the energy industry are prepared.

U.S. refineries have invested $100 billion to produce cleaner ship fuel when the new global standard goes into effect in 2020.

Our refiners already have extensive experience supplying low-sulfur marine fuels. Ships working the U.S. coastal areas have long been required to use fuel that burns five times cleaner than what’s required for all vessels next year.

As the world’s top oil producer and a leader in low-sulfur crude and clean burning natural gas, the United States has a natural advantage as demand for these fuels rises.

Venezuela and Russia stand to be the biggest losers.

Venezuela, one of the world’s largest exporters of high-sulfur fuel, has not invested in upgrades to refine the new mandated fuel.

Russian refineries don’t produce any low-sulfur fuel, and it could lose more than a third of its refining revenue in 2020 alone.

These opponents naturally want to stop the fuel changeover. Since the facts are against them, they resort to dire predictions of shortages and price spikes.

But there’s so much missing from their “study,” its conclusions don’t add up.

Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy found the ersatz “forecasts” skip over the fact that the shipping industry is using less fuel because of consolidation, increased efficiency, slower operating speed and shorter routes through the Arctic and a widened Panama Canal.

Delaying the changeover from high- to low-polluting maritime fuel would further perpetuate the unfair system that gives offshore polluters a free pass while Americans are taken to the cleaners, literally and figuratively.

Environmentalists would be on solid ground calling for a boycott of anything made in China. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

We can start by banning filthy, high-sulfur fuels from the giant container ships that carry Chinese goods to our shores. And we should.

There’s no reason to delay cleaning up the foreign polluters that have been targeting American industries that play by the rules.

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