The New Age of Coal
No matter how hard environmental do-gooders are trying to kill coal, they're clearly not succeeding. According to a new report by the Energy Information Administration, despite the ongoing fear-mongering from the left, coal continues to be a major source of power generation in both developed and emerging nations, accounting for as much of the world's electricity today as it did in the 1990s. As it turns out, coal has proven to be incredibly resilient in Asia and Africa, where it has been pushed up by rising demand.
This information may come as a shock for anti-coal crusaders, but IT should hardly be surprising if the reasons behind its staying power are considered. The stuff is cheap and readily available, making it an ideal fuel source for developing countries around the globe – especially when it's not possible for them to employ prohibitively expensive renewables on a grand scale. Indeed, for some countries, exploiting their domestic coal resources is the only way to attain economic development and create a better future for their populations.
Incorrigible tree-huggers may think restricting funding for coal will lead to solar panels and wind farms all over Africa, but the real result is that African countries are being held back in their development. The Nigerian government, for example, plans to generate about 30% of its electricity from coal. The country's Mines and Steel Ministry has identified nearly three billion tons of coal reserves – fuel that that's crucial for the country's electricity generation, steel production, or cement manufacturing, all of which have enormous economic potential. However, with the World Bank and other multilateral financial institutions denying Nigeria the necessary funding over pollution concerns, this dream is dead in the water.
The tragedy of the situation is that the arguments of the anti-coal coalition are dripping with duplicity and condescension. At a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting, former Nigerian finance minister Kemi Adeosun called out developed countries for their "hypocritical behavior," especially since it was coal-fired power that drove Western industrialization. She's right to be angry, since the technologies to achieve significant CO2 emission reductions for coal – and making its use more efficient – already exist. But with die-hard activists wreaking havoc around the globe, this fact is willfully suppressed.
High efficiency, low emission technology (HELE) and carbon capture and storage (CCS) have been designed to curb coal emissions in order to help countries strongly reliant on the fuel strike a balance between electricity and environmental protection needs. And under President Trump, the United States has emerged as the clear leader in promoting these crucial technologies.
The U.S. government is swimming against the stream by launching the Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) initiative that was originally proposed by secretary of energy Rick Perry last year. This comes on top of a multilateral effort to making HELE and CCS technologies widely available where they're needed the most. Trump's "Clean and Advanced Fossil Fuel Alliance" is increasingly taking shape as a viable international institution that seeks to promote clean coal tech and devise more realistic energy policies that take more efficient fossil fuel use into account.
The relevance of such initiatives is hard to dispute, at least for those equipped with the ability for rational thought. Because while the developing world will be the main consumer of coal – China is planning to build as many as 700 new coal plants in coming decades using domestic coal reserves to future energy demands – developed countries are also still using coal as a primary power source. Poland has announced plans to use coal for 50 percent of its power generation through 2050. And Germany, the shining light for everyone with a hatred of nuclear and coal, is in fact still generating 40 percent of its energy from coal.
Clearly, the left-wing narrative that the age of coal is over is blatantly wrong. Rather than maintain the charade that the world is moving away from coal, governments should embrace the reality that coal will remain the primary engine of electricity generation for decades to come and invest in technologies that make its use more efficient.
Technologies such as the high-efficiency coal-fired power plants the U.S. is developing are better exported where they are needed most rather than suppressed. Instead of blindly continuing to vilify coal while demand for the fuel grows all over the world, governments should spend their money and political capital investing in ways to make clean coal the standard around the globe.
Other countries that say they're committed to low-emissions energy should face reality, rather than repeating the same tired arguments, and follow America's lead on this front.