International Demand

“King Coal” roars back

While many don’t want you to know it, rebounding economies and the terrible global energy crisis have put coal back at the top of the chain.

President Biden’s energy-climate policies have apparently been more coal-friendly than those of President Trump.

New federal data shows coal-fired electricity generation in the United States jumped 22% in 2021 to 945 terawatt-hours – the first annual increase for coal since 2014.

Coal will produce nearly a quarter of America’s electricity this year, as competitor’s natural gas prices have doubled since June to over $ 6.00.

Due to the boom in demand, US coal companies are now offering six-figure wages to miners.

Not too bad for a commodity the media have loved to leave for dead for over a decade now.

“The exhaustion of coal” The Washington Post declared on January 2, 2011.

The personal politics permeating “journalism” continue to leave us energy and climate stupid.

And since President Xi Jinping is not expected to attend the next COP26 climate summit, the world’s largest consumer is barely “getting out of coal.”

Adding a whopping 38,400 MW, China built more new coal-producing capacity last year than the rest of the world retired.

The International Energy Agency said China’s demand for coal will hit a new high this year, about seven years after the Sierra Club pledged that China’s coal consumption was “drying up. “.

Moreover, after decades of trying to ‘get out of coal’, even small-growing Europe is realizing what happens when the real alternative becomes unaffordable: gas explode ”.

Still, the rebound in coal is not surprising when you look at the numbers.

Only about 20% of global coal use is traded internationally, making coal a largely domestic resource with enormous energy security benefits for consumers.

In comparison, about 33% of gas and about 75% of oil is traded between countries.

Coal is a fundamental resource in very important Asia, so demand generally increases as the population and the economy grow.

Globally, coal is still easily the main source of electricity at 37-40% of all production.

Coal accounts for 60-65% of power generation in China and 68-73% in India, the two largest additional energy users who hold around 35% of humanity.

Demand for coal has been so high in China this year that supply shortages have forced electricity to be rationed, with “alternatives” to coal not being as available as some like to claim.

In the most energy-deprived country on the planet, the explosion in demand for coal in India has also left the country short of supply: “Without coal, you cannot survive … not possible to keep lights on without charcoal. “

With 85% of the world’s population struggling, the United Nations has said human progress trumps everything:

  • “Economic and social development and the eradication of poverty are the first and foremost priorities of developing countries”, United Nations

The private jet-setters of COP26 will just have to get over it.

In fact, the United Nations tells us that humans today have come first since 1972.

And I doubt that American taxpayers want tens of billions of their dollars invested in an ambiguous and surely impossible to track global “climate fund”.

Sorry, but I am choosing our precious resources to go to educational equity and economic opportunity for the poor and neglected black neighborhoods of Homewood in Pittsburgh and Adamsville in Atlanta… ..not for the windmills in India.

The American voting public deserves and should demand this.

Even in wealthy Japan, which is a fully developed country with a declining population rate, there is no timetable for phasing out coal.

In 2030, coal is expected to hold 20% of Japan’s electricity mix.

In Germany? Hundreds of billions of dollars spent on renewables have always left coal as the primary source of energy.

Not just for electricity (the sine qua non modernity), coal is the backbone of steel production and therefore the driving force of cities.

Most ironically, coal for electricity and steel are an integral part of building wind turbines and solar panels themselves.

A check of the reality of the The Wall Street Journal in July: “Behind the rise of American solar energy, a mountain of Chinese coal”.

The constant pace of global urbanization adds some 70 million people each year to cities around the world – Texas and California’s worth of humans having more money and more access for more energy use. .

Global energy and electricity consumption is expected to explode exponentially in the decades to come.

For most of these new big consumers, “electrification” (eg electric cars), bridging the “digital divide” and the boom in air conditioning surely means a lot more electricity and that means coal.

Crazy oil and gas prices are expected to give coal a boost in this freezing winter.

For example, coal accounts for 80% of China’s heating.

The typical choice in the energy market is between coal, oil and gas, with naturally intermittent renewables stuck in the minor leagues.

And contrary to what we hear over and over again, the costs of renewables do not go down in perpetuity.

S&P Global, for example, reports that a “multitude of headwinds” are driving a 15% increase in solar prices in the United States this year and a 19% jump in wind.

The rising costs of renewables are based on growing demand, which could easily worsen as the “energy transition” progresses.

And cost comparisons between coal and renewables are not accepted around the world as much as Western universities claim today.

Pure physics makes wind and sun “non-routable” sources of electricity, and their ability to displace “sendable” resources like coal is not as strong as advertised.

This huge difference in reliability makes the “renewables versus fossil fuels and nuclear” debate an apple-to-orange comparison.

Coal may well become cheaper than ever due to the emphasis on other sources of energy – freeing it up to be used more than currently expected.

A few days before COP26, and especially since electricity is only gaining in importance in our lives, we have to be realistic.

And seeking only weather-dependent energy is about as unrealistic as it gets.

Ultimately, the energy crisis is likely to make coal even more important to heavy users: it reaffirms that all resources – especially the most essential – must remain viable options to support human progress that continues to grow. be too short.

Indeed, “for energy, the poor deserve to be rich”.

If we’re not careful, poorer coal-based economies will simply turn to cheaper, less efficient coal, like sub-critical power plants.

This explains why the International Energy Agency for so many years has strongly advocated supercritical and ultra-supercritical technologies, as well as huge investments in carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Our OECD energy advisor has already told us that “associated with CSC, HELE [High-Efficiency, Low-Emissions] Technologies can reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants by up to 90%.

Coal is so ingrained in the world’s gigantic energy complex that significant emission reductions and net zero are a pipe dream without these clean coal technologies.

We are already seeing the devastating consequences of not investing in critical energy resources that so many people have us believe will all magically disappear.

And I horribly expect the resulting extremely high prices to be deadly this winter.

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