Friday, April 11, 2014

Global Consumption is Surging

China is now consuming nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined, and other emerging markets, ranging from India and Indonesia to Brazil, are turning to coal to bring tens of millions out of poverty and drive economic growth. Europe too is burning more coal to balance energy costs and improve energy security.

And yet, the U.S., the nation with the world’s largest coal reserves and energy research capability, is casting aside the domestic use of coal for power generation. That is nonsensical, given the global need for more efficient coal-burning technologies.

Coal-generated electricity in the U.S. has fallen in recent years due to an influx of cheap natural gas, the product of our shale-gas revolution, and a wave of new environmental regulations. While President Obama professes to support and all-of-the-above energy strategy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under his direction, is crafting one regulation after another to phase out our existing coal fleet and make it virtually impossible to build new coal plants.

EPA’s latest rule, aimed at greenhouse gas emissions, would require all new coal plants to equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. But CCS technology, for all practical purposes does not exist.

There is not one coal plant in the U.S. using CCS and only a handful of demonstration projects under development, not one of which is at commercial scale [SEE: AEP’s unsuccessful attempt in St. Albans, WV.]
Simply put, EPA’s new standard for coal plants cannot be met with technology that is currently available.

Driving EPA’s anti-coal agenda is the belief that coal is a fuel of the past and that if the U.S. is to tackle climate change, coal generation must be phased out. But that approach totally ignores coal’s global appeal.

The U.S. cannot stop climate change by itself. We are not even the world’s largest carbon emitter. Abandoning our largest source of electricity in the misplaced hope the rest of the world might stop using coal is nonsensical. Unilaterally turning away from coal undermine America’s economic competiveness.

Instead of taking the wrong path, let’s adopt an energy policy that helps drive economic growth, reflecting the reality that coal is more important than ever globally. Rather than phasing out the use of coal in this country, we should be leading the world in research, development and demonstration of clean-coal technology. Technology, not overzealous regulation, is the key to reducing our carbon footprint.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency has pegged the development and adoption of clean-coal technology, particularly CCs, as just as important as the growth of renewable power in reducing global emissions. The numbers suggest why that is. Wind and solar power generate less than (5) five percent of the nation’s electricity while coal provides 40 percent of the nation’s power. In China, coal meets 80 percent of that country’s growing electricity demand. Many other countries with fast-growing economies, including Indonesia, India and Brazil, also rely heavily on coal.

Let’s move forward with an honest all-of-the-above energy strategy. We can develop advanced energy technologies in unison. Such a strategy, by definition, should not mean picking one technology and casting aside another.

The Obama administration’s anti-coal agenda threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs, state economies and tens of millions of people who require affordable energy. Bad policy, void of any pragmatism, is not what the country needs.

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