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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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  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@NOsPam.hackish.org> on Friday November 23, 2012 @12:51PM (#42074623)

    Sources suggest [indexmundi.com] that apart from a brief blip during the economic downturn in 2009, worldwide coal consumption has been steadily increasing for the past 10 years or so, after plateauing in 1988-2000.

  • Re:Predictable (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 23, 2012 @01:19PM (#42074833)

    Global coal production has been increasing steadily since 2000, in 2004 global coal production increased by 9%, a 6% increase in 2010 over 2009 is pretty ordinary. See the chart below.


  • Re:Predictable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 23, 2012 @01:22PM (#42074857)

    Europe doesn't have much good coal left. After centuries of mining, only crappy coal is left behind. Germany, the world leader in brown coal (the worse of the worse) production and consumption..

    http://www.worldcoal.org/resources/coal-statistics/ [worldcoal.org]

    44% of Germany's power production is still coal. But environmentalists say that nuclear is the problem and shut it down. Because we all know that nuclear power causes global warming, destroyed the ozone layer and killed millions in Chernobyl and destroyed the environment there. :S Right??

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/04/0426_060426_chernobyl.html [nationalgeographic.com]

    In reality, radiation "disaster areas" are off limits for humans only. And where there are no people, the wildlife seems to be doing quite well. As it was said before by people much smarter than myself - maybe the only way to save the amazon rainforest is to spread nuclear waste all over it.

    The bottom line is nuclear disaster are short term problem for the generation(s) responsible for cutting corners and polluting the area. Overtime, the said pollution disappears (half-life mostly) and future generations don't pay the piper. They get renewed, pristine land instead. Unlike Global Warming, the highest danger is immediate not 400 years from now.

    So I must say the anti-nuclear power environmentalists are complete whackos. Somewhere along the line they completely lost their rationality and their actions will fuck over all of us.

  • by Tx ( 96709 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @01:44PM (#42075077) Journal

    It's not so much PR as reality. Germany is one of the greenest countries in Europe, yet they're building new coal plants. Why? Because they're decommissioning old nuclear plants, and they have to replace them with some suitable base-load source. Since Fukushima, new nuclear plants are practically off the cards, so coal is about it. It's cheap, it's not nuclear, and we don't have to buy it from the Arabs; what's not to love?

  • Re:Predictable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xtal ( 49134 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @02:06PM (#42075245)

    Nobody complains about all the nuclear reactors mounted on thousands of kilograms of rocket fuel, pointed directly at the world's major population centers, locked and loaded, a few electrical impulses from going off.

    People are stupid, and the anti-nuke people are even stupider. We'll burn every last drop of commercially extractable energy profitable hydrocarbon before we look at nuclear. My only ray of light is nuclear is so clean, and there is so much of it, that it may be able to power a next generation of carbon sequestration technologies.

    I have become more vocal about pointing out the stupidity, and encourage others to do so. No renewables on earth can, or ever will, compare with the energy density and baseload capacity of a modern nuclear plant.

    Not having fusion reactors should be a national shame. The only ones we have are on top of those rockets.

  • by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @02:48PM (#42075625)

    Coal had fallen out of favour as one of those 'we're not going to eliminate it over night' kind of things. And then china decided it liked being able to power factories and TVs.

    Actually what happened was that our corporate overlords decided that cheap Chinese labor was the way of the future so they dismantled our manufacturing industry and moved it to China. This caused a massive increase in demand for electricity in China so that they could build cheap TVs, mobile phones, laptops and other gadgets for us to buy with the top notch salaries we were all earning in the new 'service economy'. In order to keep their prices low and margins high the Chinese went for the cheapest most abundant fuel they could find, unfortunately that also happened to be the dirtiest most polluting one. Of course none of that is our fault, we just buy Chinese TVs, mobile phones, laptops and re-elect the puppets our corporate overlords finance with the money they earned exporting our manufacturing industry to China .... and besides, it's not as if the climate is changing or anything.

  • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @03:03PM (#42075741) Journal

    Well, the 13,000 deaths per year that are attributed to coal-fired power plants in the US alone. How about not loving that?

    Source: http://www.catf.us/fossil/problems/power_plants/existing/ [www.catf.us]

    How many deaths in the US are attributed to nuclear power per year? None?

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @03:47PM (#42076059)

    "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!

    No matter how I count, I get a few PBq in the form of long-lived isotopes from coal, annually, and Fukushima released something like 14 PBq of moderately long lived isotopes, in total. You know, all the 238U and 232Th from the coal is going to stay with us for a very, very long time...

  • by Creepy ( 93888 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:36PM (#42076857) Journal

    The problem is similar to cars vs airplanes - you are WAY more likely to die in a car accident than in an airplane accident, but many people absolutely panic when they have to fly because when accidents do happen, they often kill hundreds of people instead of a handful. People are irrational that way - they see a volume event as a way greater than a gradual event. I have a friend that spends $10 a week to play the lottery because he's sure he will win. If he wisely invested that money instead, he'd probably be off welfare (yeah, we're paying him to play the lottery, facepalm).

  • Re:Predictable (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @07:56PM (#42077975)

    There's a reason why the research into the liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) has been dusted off and given serious consideration again.

    Unlike conventional nuclear reactors, LFTR's have a lot of advantages:

    1. It uses plentiful thorium-233 dissolved in molten sodium fluoride salts as fuel--cheap to make.
    2. You can use spent uranium fuel rods and even plutonium from dismantled nuclear warheads dissolved in molten sodium fluoride salts as fuel--eliminating a huge nuclear waste disposal problem.
    3. It doesn't require an expensive pressurized reactor vessel.
    4. Shutting down the reactor quickly involves only dumping the liquid fuel from the reactor--no need for complicated reactor control rod procedures.
    5. Using closed-loop Brayton turbines, we eliminate the need for expensive cooling towers or locating the reactor near a big body of water.
    6. The radioactive waste generated is very small, and only has a half-life of under 300 years. That means very cheap disposal costs (if the nuclear medicine industry doesn't grab it first!).

    So what are we waiting for?

A quarrel is quickly settled when deserted by one party; there is no battle unless there be two. -- Seneca