A cheap, ubiquitous and flexible fuel, with just one problem
WHAT more could one want? It is cheap and simple to extract, ship and burn. It is abundant: proven reserves amount to 109 years of current consumption, reckons BP, a British energy giant. They are mostly in politically stable places. There is a wide choice of dependable sellers, such as BHP Billiton (Anglo-Australian), Glencore (Anglo-Swiss), Peabody Energy and Arch Coal (both American).
Other fuels are beset by state interference and cartels, but in this industry consumers—in heating, power generation and metallurgy—are firmly in charge, keeping prices low. Just as this wonder-fuel once powered the industrial revolution, it now offers the best chance for poor countries wanting to get rich.
Such arguments are the basis of a new PR campaign launched by Peabody, the world’s largest private coal company (which unlike some rivals is profitable, thanks to its low-cost Australian mines). And coal would indeed be a boon, were it not for one small problem: it is devastatingly dirty. Mining, transport, storage and burning are fraught with mess, as well as danger. Deep mines put workers in intolerably filthy and dangerous conditions. But opencast mining, now the source of much of the world’s coal, rips away topsoil and gobbles water. Transporting coal brings a host of environmental problems.
The increased emissions of carbon dioxide from soaring coal consumption threaten to fry the planet, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reminded everyone in a new report this week (see article). The CO2makes the oceans acid; burning coal also produces sulphur dioxide, which makes buildings crumble and lungs sting, and other toxic chemicals. By some counts, coal-fired power stations emit more radioactivity than nuclear ones. They release tiny, lethal particulates. Per unit generated, coal-fired stations cause far more deaths than nuclear ones, and more even than oil-fired ones.
But poverty kills people too, and slow growth can cost politicians their jobs. Two decades of environmental worries are proving only a marginal constraint on the global coal industry. Some are trying to get out: in America Consol Energy is selling five mines in West Virginia to concentrate on shale gas. Big coal-burners such as American Electric Power and Duke Energy are shutting coal-fired plants. Yet despite America’s shale-gas boom, the federal Energy Information Administration reckons that by 2040 the country will still be generating 22% of its electricity from coal (compared with 26% now). The International Energy Agency has even predicted that, barring policy changes, coal may rival oil in importance by 2017. As countries get richer they tend to look for alternatives—China is scrambling to curb its rising consumption. But others, such as India and Africa, are set to take up the slack
The Latest on: Coal
via Google News
The Latest on: Coal
- Look Back • The day coal smoke choked St. Louis - Nov. 28, 1939on November 28, 2020 at 7:32 am
The city finally banned high-polluting but cheap coal from southern Illinois mines, sparking howls of outrage from miners and coal dealers.
- Arch Resources: Expanding Met Coal Production While Winding Down Thermal Coalon November 28, 2020 at 5:18 am
Arch is transitioning towards becoming a pure-play metallurgical coal producer eventually. Its thermal coal assets may have no value, but its metallurgical coal assets could help it generate $300 ...
- China increases coal import quotas but Australia likely to be excludedon November 27, 2020 at 6:03 pm
China’s foreign ministry says Australia needs to show ‘mutual respect’ ...
- China’s crackdown on Australian coal imports sends prices slidingon November 27, 2020 at 6:34 am
Fraying relations between Australia and China have sparked a more than 25 per cent drop in coking coal prices even as iron ore — the other ingredient needed to make steel — has soared to six-year ...
- China’s $1.5 Billion Indonesia Coal Deal May Hit Australiaon November 26, 2020 at 6:51 pm
Chinese firms signed contracts to buy about 28.7 million tons of coal under the deal, China’s embassy in Indonesia said Friday in a statement posted on its WeChat account. The v ...
- Column: China's crackdown on Australian coking coal hurts its steel industryon November 26, 2020 at 7:16 am
China's unofficial restrictions on coal imports from Australia are having more than just an impact on miners down under, it's hurting steel producers in China and helping those elsewhere.
- British coal plants fired up to meet temporary electricity shortfallon November 26, 2020 at 7:13 am
Remaining UK coal plants, including Drax, supply 6% of grid’s electricity to cover power supply drop and colder weather ...
- Coal trade is the biggest long-term risk to dry bulk shipping: Analyston November 26, 2020 at 3:46 am
Coal demand is hurt by global pandemic and coal trades between China and Australia are affected by strained relations, says Clarksons Platou's Omar Nokta.
- COLUMN-China's crackdown on Australian coking coal hurts its steel industry: Russellon November 25, 2020 at 9:37 pm
China's unofficial restrictions on coal imports from Australia are having more than just an impact on miners down under, it's hurting steel producers in China and helping those elsewhere. LAUNCESTON, ...
- Canada Coal Announces Execution of Business Combination Agreement with Ayurcannon November 25, 2020 at 3:09 pm
Canada Coal Inc. is pleased to announce that it has entered into a definitive business combination agreement dated November 24, 2020 with Ayurcann Inc. which, subject to certain conditions and ...
via Bing News