Written by STEPHEN MOORE
At the very moment President Obama has decided to shutter America’s coal industry in favor of much more expensive and less efficient “renewable energy,” coal use is surging across the globe.
A new study by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences detects an unmistakable “coal renaissance” under way that shows this mineral of fossilized carbon has again become “the most important source of energy-related emissions on the global scale.” Coal is expanding rapidly “not only in China and India but also across a broad range of developing countries — especially poor, fast-growing countries mainly in Asia,” the study finds. Why is coal such a popular energy source now? The NAS study explains that many nations are attracted to “(relatively) low coal prices . . . to satisfy their energy needs.” It also finds “the share of coal in the energy mix indeed has grown faster for countries with higher economic growth.” In sum, using coal is a stepping stone to prosperity. So much for it being a satanic energy source.
Hardly a day passes without evidence that coal is making a major comeback:
• Some 1,200 coal plants are planned across 59 countries, with about three-quarters in China and India, according to the World Resources Institute.
• Coal use around the world has grown about four times faster than renewables, according to the global energy monitoring publication BP Review of World Energy 2015.
• German coal “will remain a major, and probably the largest, fuel source for power generation for another decade and perhaps longer,” the Financial Times concludes.
• “The U.S. is dropping coal plants at an unprecedented rate, but still nowhere near as quickly as India is adding them,” Bloomberg Business reckons. “By the end of this year, some 7.5% of the U.S. coal fleet will have disappeared . . . . But by 2020 India may have built about 2.5 times as much capacity as the U.S. is about to lose.”
Then, of course, there’s the world’s biggest coal addict by far — the People’s Republic of China. According to a 2014 report from Eric Lawson of Princeton University, a leading climate change apocalyptic on the left: “The reality is that fossil fuels dominate China’s energy landscape, as they do in virtually every other country. And the focus on renewables also hides the fact that China’s reliance upon coal is predicted to keep growing.” Lawson’s calculations of how coal use is growing in China are jaw-dropping. “From 2010 through 2013, (China) added half the coal generation of the entire U.S. At the peak, from 2005 through 2011, China added roughly two 600-megawatt coal plants a week for seven straight years. “And according to U.S. government projections, China will add yet another U.S. worth of coal plants over the next 10 years, or the equivalent of a new 600-megawatt plant every 10 days for 10 years.”
All this underscores the foolishness and futility of the Obama climate-change regulations designed to drastically reduce coal production in the U.S. As we use less and the rest of the world uses more, the impact on global temperatures will be very close to zero. Coal production in the U.S. is much safer and less carbon-intensive (clean coal technologies have reduced pollutants by 30%) than coal from other nations. So Obama’s war on coal may make global warming worse. Some might say this gesture by the Obama administration to cut off coal production in the U.S. is a useful first step to save the planet. Except this isn’t just a cheap sign of goodwill. It’s a tremendously expensive gesture that will cost America hundreds of thousands of jobs, raise utility prices by as much as $1,000 per family and reduce GDP by as much half a percentage point a year when we are already barely growing. The poor will be hurt most. What makes the Obama administration regulations doubly destructive is that the U.S. has more coal than any other nation. With at least 300 years of supply at a value of trillions of dollars, we are truly the Saudi Arabia of coal. To leave it in the ground would be like Obama telling Nebraska to stop growing corn, Idaho to stop growing potatoes and Silicon Valley to give up on the digital age. Ironically, the president justifies his war on coal by arguing, “We must lead so that others will follow.” But outside of dreamland, the rest of the world has no intention of following Mr. Obama’s act of economic masochism. Most nations value getting richer over getting greener — as well they should. Given the sad state of our economy today, so should we.