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Earth Power News

The World Falls Back In Love With Coal 341

Hugh Pickens writes "Richard Anderson reports on BBC that despite stringent carbon emissions targets in Europe designed to slow global warming and massive investment in renewable energy in China, coal, the dirtiest and most polluting of all the major fossil fuels, is making a comeback with production up 6% over 2010, twice the rate of increase of gas and more than four times that of oil. 'What is going on is a shift from nuclear power to coal and from gas to coal; this is the worst thing you could do, from a climate change perspective,' says Dieter Helm. Why the shift back to coal? Because coal is cheap, and getting cheaper all the time. Due to the economic downturn, there has been a 'collapse in industrial demand for energy,' leading to an oversupply of coal, pushing the price down. Meanwhile China leads the world in coal production and consumption. It mines over 3 billion tons of coal a year, three times more than the next-biggest producer (America), and last year overtook Japan to become the world's biggest coal importer. Although China is spending massive amounts of money on a renewable energy but even this will not be able to keep up with demand, meaning fossil fuels will continue to make up the majority of the overall energy mix for the foreseeable future and when it comes to fossil fuels, coal is the easy winner — it is generally easier and cheaper to mine, and easier to transport using existing infrastructure such as roads and rail, than oil or gas. While China is currently running half a dozen carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects — which aim to capture CO2 emissions from coal plants and bury it underground — the technology is nowhere near commercial viability. 'Renewed urgency in developing CCS globally, alongside greater strides in increasing renewable energy capacity, is desperately needed,' writes Anderson, 'but Europe's increasing reliance on coal without capturing emissions is undermining its status as a leader in clean energy, and therefore global efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.'"
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The World Falls Back In Love With Coal

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  • Predictable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @12:56PM (#42074665) Homepage

    That's what you get for knee-jerking and planning to shut down all of your nuclear reactors. The promise of replacing that power with clean renewable energy is proving a tad hard to follow up, right? I'm not exactly surprised.

    I expect Europe will eventually start driving coal down once more, but it'll take a while to do such a shift, during which time coal will be the stopgap measure. That, or they finally wake up and do nuclear right instead of writing it off entirely.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @01:01PM (#42074699)

    America is the only country it would seem, still building clean nuclear plants (much less shutting them down as Germany has done!). We are also the only country going full speed ahead on fracking, giving us lots of natural gas to use which burns without emitting CO2. Also where are realistic electric cars like the Telsa being designed? America.

    Frankly I did not ever see Europe being a leader in CO2 reduction, they were all talk. It's one thing to sign a paper or give statements of support, it's quite another to carry through with real actions that will actually cause the reduction you seek. If Europe had been at all serious about CO2 reduction they would have leaned on Germany not to close down nuclear plants.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @01:03PM (#42074701)

    Because right now, it's cheaper to pull oil out the ground and refine it into diesel.

  • Re:Predictable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Friday November 23, 2012 @01:26PM (#42074887) Homepage Journal

    It has nothing to do with nuclear. Keep in mind fukushima happened last year and there is no way new coal plants could have been built as a reaction by now.

    The growth has been coming for years due to rising costs in other areas and the falling cost of coal. Carbon capture has also made it more attractive.

    I'm sure nuclear will eventually make a difference, but not yet.

  • Re:Predictable (Score:-1, Insightful)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @01:34PM (#42074975) Homepage Journal

    The collective has decided that it does not want nuclear.

    Greens decided that they are against nuclear [].

    It's not carbon and not nuclear. It needs to be clean. A lot of it has to do with redirecting our economy to less carbon intensive, relocalized versions of the economy.

    (never mind the other [] obvious problems [] with the 'greens' being that they are in fact socialists, collectivists, central planners pushing for price controls, exchange controls, wage controls, draft, marshal law, nationalisation, all the worst parts of authoritarian, dictatorial, tyrannical, anti-individual, anti-human, anti-free market, anti-capitalist ideology)

    So the collective decided that it does not want nuclear, just like the collective decided that it does not want free market competitive capitalism, but instead wants collectivism. It's all complete nonsense and it is destroying the economy as well as the environment.

  • Re:Predictable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 23, 2012 @01:41PM (#42075059)

    Can we switch to burning Activists for fuel?

  • Greenpeace (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doconnor ( 134648 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @01:45PM (#42075087) Homepage

    It seems to me the Greenpeace's successful campaign against nuclear power and failure to campaign against coal power has been a major cause of global warming. No doubt Greenpeace knew or should have known since the 1980s how much worse coal is for the environment.

  • Re:Predictable (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @02:19PM (#42075349) Journal
    I'm very much pro nuclear, and against smelly hippie activists, but I wouldn't go so far as to call them complete whackos. They have a point: the old nuke plants were pretty bad and so were the old ideas around waste disposal. But that's improving; newer plants are far safer than the old crapholes at Fukushima and Chernobyl. Newer designs (thorium plants) can be made far safer still, and also bring the amount of time we need to store waste down to manageable levels (think a few decades). But I agree: we got these improvements not because of the activists, but despite them. And their "no nukes ever" stance has now been picked up by most of Europe in the wake of Fukushima, slowing development even further, to the point where we may end up buying our thorium plants from the Chinese or the Indians a few decades down the line.
  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @02:24PM (#42075415)

    Coal spews more radiation than a nuclear meltdown, and kills many more people in it's extraction and mining. How's that for some things not to love?

    Well, I don't love it, and you don't love it, but the people with the money who are making the decisions love it.

  • by hankwang ( 413283 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @02:33PM (#42075505) Homepage

    "Coal spews more radiation than a nuclear meltdown"

    I'd like to see a source for that. More radiation than a properly functioning nuclear plant, maybe. But accidents like Chernobyl or Fukushima: no way!

    Plus: the radioactivity released by coal plants is mostly in the fly ash, which is filtered out in modern plants. So it's essentially comparing near zero amounts of radioactivity.

  • by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @03:04PM (#42075747)

    Not sure if you're trolling, joking, or just an idiot. You can't point to an example of a Fukushima-like population center wiped out due to radiation from coal because the effects are distributed invisibly among the entire population of the planet. The solution to pollution is dilution, and coal plants get rid of their radioactive waste by 'diluting' it right into our lungs.

    You won't see any earnest young reporters taking us through the pulmonary ward at the local nursing home, or the hospice where a wide cross-section of people regularly die of cancers that we normally associate with smoking. Jane Fonda isn't going to picket the ICU at the hospital where people succumb to pneumonia they might otherwise have survived. Nothing in those places is glowing green, melting through concrete floors, or setting off radiation alarms. That's not how coal pollution kills people.

    I sincerely hope IHBT, in which case I will STFU and HAND.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 23, 2012 @03:16PM (#42075855)

    The problem is the solutions presented by Gore and others were "buy a Prius", "don't drive as much", "buy a smaller house", things that affect quality of life.

    The problem with that is that the big energy hogs and CO2 belchers are not touched. For example, one can let their lawn go completely into tinderbox, but the water saved will just be used by the golf course down the road making the sacrifice of property value pointless.

    Same with people buying hybrids thinking they can "save the environment". Nope... the biggest pollution belchers in moving vehicles are cargo ships using "bunker C" fuel, which is very close to tar, and is highly polluting.

    Rather than call people "spoiled" and demand they give up their way of life for a 0.0001% improvement in things, focus on the big energy hogs and get 1-2% improvements.

    With all the keening from the Greens how everything one does is "not eco", they start to get ignored, or when things happen like the EPA passing too stringent laws that force steel production overseas, greens become reviled. It is no wonder why big business is having a field day.

  • by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @03:48PM (#42076073) Journal

    And the death's related to coal aren't presented the same way in the media as death's related to nuclear meltdowns.

    In a mining disaster, typically a cave-in that traps miners underground, focus is initially on recovering the miners, then the mine owner is fined/put out of business and that's the end of it.

    For a nuclear meltdown, it's focus on the actual meltdown itself, then fine/put the owner out of business, then push for the shutdown of all nuclear reactors everywhere.

  • by nadaou ( 535365 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @04:16PM (#42076295) Homepage

    > They are all Clean

    I do not think that word means what you think it means.

  • by aurispector ( 530273 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @04:39PM (#42076461)

    And solar radiation is directly responsible for more cancer deaths than any other radiation source. BAN SOLAR FOR THE CHLDRNZZZZ!!!!!

    The irony is that the greens spent so much time in the '80's and 90's demonizing nuclear energy and we are just now reaping what they sowed. Nuclear plants could be designed to be basically accident proof, yet they are saddled with such regulatory burden that it is basically not possible to build new ones in the US.

    Hence we are stuck with a national energy policy that is based on wishes, rainbows and unicorn farts. And, like it or not, coal.

  • by TFAFalcon ( 1839122 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @08:03PM (#42078025)

    And you just pinpointed the reason coal is so popular : The damage it does is not concentrated. Instead of wiping out a small area it slowly poisons a large one. The number of deaths may be greater, but they (mostly) can't be proved to be the result of the coal - it's hard for it to kill you quickly. So they just fade into the background - and that's when everything goes right with the power plant.

    Nuclear power is capable of high death counts when things go wrong, and very little pollution otherwise. But when things do go wrong, the deaths (even if there are relatively few) are gruesome and therefore highly visible. At the same time it's easier to track the radiation they do release - it's above the normal background radiation, rather then setting the background radiation like coal.

    And if you want to drag Chernobyl into it (which was the result of scientists experimenting, not some sort of a random accident), then why not also compare it to some other accidents? Like the Banqiao Dam failure, which killed about 170k people.

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