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World's Largest Private Coal Company Files For Bankruptcy (reuters.com) 235

An anonymous reader writes: Peabody Energy Corp filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection on Wednesday after a sharp drop in coal prices left it unable to service debt of $10.1 billion, much of it incurred for an expansion into Australia. As demand for metallurgical coal fell, particularly in China, Peabody's financial woes intensified. The company took a $700 million write-down on its Australian metallurgical coal assets last year. At home, the U.S. shale boom of the past few years made natural gas competitive with thermal coal, and the Obama administration's environmental regulations raised operational costs. Mr. Peabody's coal train might not be hauling away any more of paradise. Peabody, the world's biggest private-sector coal producer, said it expected its mines to continue to operate as usual and said its Australian assets were excluded from the bankruptcy. "This process enables us to strengthen liquidity and reduce debt, build upon the significant operational achievements we've made in recent years and lay the foundation for long-term stability and success in the future," Peabody Chief Executive Officer Glenn Kellow said in a statement.
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World's Largest Private Coal Company Files For Bankruptcy

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  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2016 @08:02PM (#51904283) Journal
    Most of these are going in as chap 11. IOW, they are simply dropping their debt and then being allowed to go back to mining coal. Yet, the real issue is that the coal burning plants are closing left, right, and sideways. Last year, Coal accounted for around 30% of America's electricity. And at this rate of dropping, coal will account for about 15-20% in another 2 years (they expect about 1/2 of the plants to close over the next 2 years).

    So, unless these companies are jumping on other mining ventures, OR they are developing uses for coal, then these will be bankrupt in another 3-5 years. So, society is being stuck with these loses over and over.
    • Most of these are going in as chap 11. IOW, they are simply dropping their debt and then being allowed to go back to mining coal.

      That is a fair point, they aren't going out of business and the coal is still coming out of the ground.

      Yet, the real issue is that the coal burning plants are closing left, right, and sideways. Last year, Coal accounted for around 30% of America's electricity.

      33% to be exact... a few years ago it was 39%, indeed the percentage is dropping. But the question is: "What is it being replaced with?"

      The answer is natural gas, which to be honest I was shocked to see is also now at 33% of America's power generation. That used to be MUCH smaller.

      OR they are developing uses for coal

      Coal can be turned into synthetic fuel, it has many uses besides power.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      The irony is that 50

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        Coal began being replaced by natural gas as it got cheap because of fracking.

        Natural gas fracking expansions got ruined because of OPEC dumping crude.

        Now the coal suppliers have begun to fail, as the natural gas suppliers have begun to stop expanding.

        If OPEC (or Saudi Arabia -- whoever) doesn't stop dumping crude oil onto the market, natural gas suppliers will fail next.

        It's a vicious cycle, this, at it eats its young.

        But gas is still hovering around $2.00 per gallon stateside and home heating bills are dow

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by C0R1D4N ( 970153 )
          We should have been investing in Nuclear, seeing as uranium is found mostly in more developed nations and not places filled with psychos and sheiks.
          • skip using uranium. We can build gen IV reactors that use the 'spent' nuke waste and not have to mine anything for a couple of 100 years.
            • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

              Canada is already doing this, either building new plants or refurbishing old plants with new reactors. But how many other countries are? How many are simply going no-no-no, no nuclear and driving up the price of electricity due to renewables.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2016 @09:27PM (#51904735) Homepage

          This story is nothing to do with energy or coal but all about fiscal shenanigans. Track the debt and all other fiscal manipulations and you will likely see the big banks fingerprints all over this either directly or indirectly. Run up debts, pay to much for capital assets, dress it all up and the sell it to pension funds et al and the bet the whole thing will collapse and then buy back those capital assets at a discount, then sell them again at a high price and repeat. You will see this happen again and again and again. The electric car is taking over and fossil fuels days are numbered.

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          Natural gas has almost always been cheap though. There was a brief period where the price went through the roof in the 90's, but overall it's been inexpensive. The main reason it wasn't used for power generation is because of that, meaning high market volatility. Hell at one point it was so worthless and cheap, it wasn't even worth capturing and was simply burnt off during oil extraction and that wasn't all that many years ago.

          It's not just because of OPEC that coal extraction companies are failing thoug

      • The irony is that 50 years from now, our cars might not run on gas derived from Petroleum, but rather from Coal. The irony... :)

        50 years from now the only people burning hydrocarbons for energy will be die hard nutjobs who put smokestacks on their electric cars so they can "burn coal" at people.

        Most cars will be electric, most electricity will be from wind, solar, tides or thorium, or some exotic source not yet invented, possibly fusion.

        • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2016 @09:41PM (#51904801)

          50 years from now the only people burning hydrocarbons for energy will be die hard nutjobs who put smokestacks on their electric cars so they can "burn coal" at people.

          That is easy to type, hard to make happen.

          Oh, it might happen in Denmark or Sweden... but world wide?

          Not likely...

          Most cars will be electric

          They will? Maybe... Considering that out of 75 million cars sold last year, 540,000 were plug in of something or other (things like the Prius Plug In Hybid), that is a steep hill to climb.

          most electricity will be from wind, solar, tides

          How do you plan to store it? Laptop batteries?

          The math says that isn't going to happen, the size and scale of the problem far exceed what can be done today.

          some exotic source not yet invented, possibly fusion.

          Ahh Fusion... in the 80s I was promised Fusion was only 20 years away... now it is 2016 and Fusion is only 20 years away! :)

          • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

            Fusion is constantly overrunning costs and deadlines, but ultimately, its a matter of being able to find the right materials and ignition method for a fusion plant. We already know fusion works and we know that it is about as renewable as the so called renewables, we just keep being overly optimistic about the engineering challenges. We're also not spending all that much money on it. We're barely breaking the equivalent of 1978 spending levels on it.

            For instance, ITER sounds really expensive, until you r

            • For instance, ITER sounds really expensive, until you realize that it only costs about the same as a handful of bombers. I'm not against bombers or military expenditure, but a energy source like fusion would be a big strategic advantage, easily worth spending the money on.

              I live in Texas, I'm still bummed the Superconducting Super Collider was canceled! :)

              That was going to be built back in the 90s!

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

              If you told me tomorrow, "no worries, we can make Fusion work, it'll only cost $10 trillion dollars over 10 years...

              I'd say "sold, when do we start?"

              It would be, in the long run, "cheap", compared to all the other options.

        • You mean "roll coal", like rollin' coal on a Prius.
    • Thermal coal prices have been in the pits for ages. But coking coal prices held up for a long time until the steel market crashed. Currently coking coal is the best way for making steel and if we see a pickup in steel prices then coking coal will recover. Much of the coal that is in the basins mined by peabody in Australia are coking.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Meanwhile, somebody please explain the 'environmental regulations' that supposedly play a part in this.

      I personally wish the administration would regulate some businesses more, especially financial ones, but the truth is they've done very little and yet conservatives love to cite 'regulations' or 'regulatory uncertainty' any time their precious free market fails them since their base is just convinced it must be true even absent any actual examples.

      • Basically it works like this.

        Coal itself is relatively cheap, mainly because it is a lot easier to transport - you can do it in trucks, not pipelines.

        The EPA has had reasonable restrictions on what any new coal plants can burn (does not affect old plants). They can't emit more than 1100 pounds per megawatt hour . Note, this compares with a 1000 lbs limit for natural gas plants.

        But to make a power plant that emits 10% more than natural gas plants emit, means the coal power plant costs so much money to ru

    • Yet, the real issue is that the coal burning plants are closing left, right, and sideways. Last year, Coal accounted for around 30% of America's electricity. And at this rate of dropping, coal will account for about 15-20% in another 2 years (they expect about 1/2 of the plants to close over the next 2 years).

      Leaving behind shoddy dams brimming with coal ash, chocked full of heavy metals to leach into the ground and water ways

      But don't worry; the taxpayers will always be there to foot the bill, so the for

  • At home, the U.S. shale boom of the past few years made natural gas competitive with thermal coal, and the Obama administration's environmental regulations raised operational costs.

    At the end of the day, this is really the problem.

    Natural gas has grown in volume while going down in price over the past few years. Since electricity in the wire doesn't care about the source, as soon as gas becomes cheaper than coal, it is really hard to keep the coal plants running.

    Combine this with lots of environmental regulations that make it hard to turn a profit, and things like this are to be expected.

    ---

    The above being said, some people will say they WANT coal to cost more, because it is dirty an

    • by Layzej ( 1976930 )

      China is also dumping coal. See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com] and http://www.smh.com.au/business... [smh.com.au]

      India is investing 1.2 billion in solar: http://cleantechnica.com/2014/... [cleantechnica.com]

      The third world was the last hope for the coal industry.

      • China is also dumping coal.

        I wouldn't put it quite that strongly...

        China is aware that 60% of their power can't come from coal, the smog is too bad.

        As it is, their coal imports are down a bit, but have a long way to go. I don't doubt they will keep dropping, but they will still be using coal for a long time to come.

        India is investing 1.2 billion in solar

        $1.2 billion isn't exactly a lot of money...

        The problem is math. People love to post stories like you did, without understanding the size and scale of the problem.

        You assume that if that keeps happening, then all will be

        • by Layzej ( 1976930 )
          The trajectory is important though. Coal is losing steam, renewables gaining.
          • The trajectory is important though.

            Yes it is, but so are the total numbers...

            People probably read my posts and think that I'm against Wind and Solar. I'm not.

            I'm simply against bad math. Wind makes up about 5% of the power in the US. I can see this increasing to 10% over the next 10 years.

            Solar makes up nearly nothing, but it will likely increase to 5% over the next 10 years.

            In 20 years, the two of them combined may well be 20% of our total power production. Maybe 30% in 30 years. But it will hit a wall somewhere around there, they are

            • by Layzej ( 1976930 )
              Robert E Murray of Murray energy: "Mackenzie and company just issued a report on all of the coal industry. We are bankrupt. The industry is bankrupt. Indeed we are 45 billion dollars short of the funds needed to fund our debt, our employee related, and our reclamation liabilities. 45 billion short, and as a whole the industry is bankrupt" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

              coal will continue to be burnt for a time to come, but consumption will continue to dwindle. Ultimately the coal companies will b

              • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2016 @11:12PM (#51905325)

                The problem is that the coal industry is leaving taxpayers with pension obligations and mine cleanup obligations. They will go bankrupt and leave us with the bill.
                Remember Capitalism = Privatize Profits and Socialize Losses

                • Not to mention the total subsidy of all industry for lower wages on the backs of social programs. A few wealthy make more profit from a cheaper workforce where the entire tax base pays for the social programs required for all those people that can't live on the wages the receive. Pension and cleanup obligations are a drop in the bucket compared to this systemic problem.

                  Walmart is the poster child of this issue for not only an example of the above but apparently profiting even more from accepting the most fo

          • However in absolute terms if you have a look at coal exports out of Australia to total tonnage has increased every year. So while coal may make up a smaller % of power generation the total amount being mined and exported is increasing. http://www.minerals.org.au/res... [minerals.org.au]

        • $1.2 billion isn't exactly a lot of money...

          The problem is math. People love to post stories like you did, without understanding the size and scale of the problem.

          You assume that if that keeps happening, then all will be fine. It won't be. The problem is larger than a solar plant here or a closed coal plant there.

          Exactly. It's a lot of solar panels and wind turbines. And a non-gridded paradigm.

          1970 called and thanked you for the support.

          • Exactly. It's a lot of solar panels and wind turbines. And a non-gridded paradigm.

            1970 called and thanked you for the support.

            There is "a lot", then there is "a lot lot".

            You should try the math and see how many solar panels and wind turbines would be required to make a difference.

            It is something on the order of one million panels... per day, every day, for the next 35 years... 10,000 wind turbines a week, and a nuclear reactor every other day, for 35 years...

            That is what it would take to cut CO2 output by 80% in 35 years.

            You're missing a few orders of magnitude with your plans...

      • China is NOT kicking their coal habit. China opened up a bunch of new coal mines and simply increased local production. Even now, they continue to build new 1GW coal plants EVERY 7-10 DAYS. Yes, they are adding around 45-50 GW of new coal plant EACH YEAR. That will continue until 2030.
        • by Layzej ( 1976930 )
          Doesn't really matter how many coal plants they make if their coal consumption continues to fall:

          "But they’re unlikely to be used to their maximum since China has practically no need for the energy they would produce. Coal-fired electricity hasn’t increased for four years, and this year coal plant utilization fell below 50%. It looks like this trend will continue, with China committing to renewables, gas and nuclear targets for 2020 — together they will cover any increase in electricity demand." - http://energydesk.greenpeace.o... [greenpeace.org]

          • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

            Says Greenpeace.

            There's only one group that matters when you talk about China and that is the Party and they are building plants. We will see how the predictions go.

          • The only reason their coal consumption fell off was because of the crash in the steel price. They dramatically cut their coking coal consumption. Their coal consumption for energy production increased significantly and absorbed much of the decrease in coking coal use. Should steel prices rise then coking coal consumption with recover.

    • If coal is replaced by natural gas, that is "cleaner", in the sense that per KWh of power, you do emit less CO2, it isn't exactly a switch to green power.

      Natural gas is cleaner than coal in a lot of ways other than CO2. It's still a net positive change for the environment.

      • Natural gas is cleaner than coal in a lot of ways other than CO2. It's still a net positive change for the environment.

        Sure, I'm not objecting to that change at all.

        Coal is probably better used for synthetic fuel, plastics, and chemicals, than it is for burning into fuel anyway...

        • I would argue the same for oil and nat gas. The idea of burning all this is just .... horrible. SO many things from hydrocarbons. And getting them cheap makes a huge difference.
          • I would argue the same for oil and nat gas. The idea of burning all this is just .... horrible.

            I agree... but every time I offer to build more nuclear, everyone goes all ape at me...

            The sad thing is that people who love the environment (and for the most part, I think they do), miss the choices on offer.

            While I'm happy to have Wind and Solar be a larger share of the energy mix, there will come a point where they are hard to increase further due to the inability to store large amounts of power for any length of time.

            So it really comes down to: "Do you want to burn dead dinos, or build nuclear reactors

    • What is funny is that none of the Obama regulations has had ANY impact on coal plants, other than stopping new ones from being done. All of the closing are for 2 reasons:
      1) cheap nat gas, combined with cheap wind. Wind is MUCH cheaper than coal. In fact, I think that it is wrong to subsidize it anymore, but CONgress likes to waste money.
      2) W's regulation of requiring that coal plants emit NO MERCURY by 2016 was huge. Per the bill, they could get an extension of like 1-2 years, but only if they were putti
      • Wind is MUCH cheaper than coal.

        I keep seeing people say this, do you have a source?

        In Texas (the leader in Wind in the US), we have the choice to buy power from many different companies, and can choose the source for our power.

        If I buy coal power for my office, my price is just over 7 cents per KWh. Wind? 10 cents per KWh.

        • by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2016 @09:25PM (#51904729) Journal

          https://www.eia.gov/forecasts/... [eia.gov]

          Levelized cost, which includes the cost of building, operating, maintaining and decommissioning the facility.

          This may not bear any sensible correlation to the price your utility charges you, depending on how dickish they feel that can get away with being.
          =Smidge=

          • Thanks for the link, that was interesting...

            Cost per MHh

            Advanced Coal - $95.10
            Advanced Nuclear - $95.20
            Natural Gas - $75.20
            Wind - $73.60
            Solar (PV) - $125.30

            The problem with wind is that you cannot store it. Not really anyway. Texas is flat, pumped storage isn't an option here and not in the volumes that would be required. We already get 9% of our power from Wind. That might go to 20%, but without storage, it will have trouble going higher.

            Nuclear is the one that interests me the most. Reasonable cost,

            • by kuzb ( 724081 )

              "The problem with wind is that you cannot store it. Not really anyway. "

              I don't know what rock you've been living under, but batteries have been a thing for decades now.

              • I don't know what rock you've been living under, but batteries have been a thing for decades now.

                Again, you fail to understand the size and scope of the problem.

                Take Tesla's new Gigafactory, which is designed to more than double world-wide battery production...

                It will produce 35 billion watt hours worth of batteries a year. To provide battery backup of 14 days to the whole planet would require 22 years worth of production from that factory.

                And that also would require replacing and redesigning much of the world's power grids. I'll let you figure out what the bill for that would be.

                • To provide battery backup of 14 days to the whole planet

                  What the fuckity fuck kind of absurdity is this? If the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining and the waters stop flowing everywhere on the planet for two weeks straight we all have MUCH BIGGER PROBLEMS to worry about.

                  Winds are forecastable and, amazingly, wind farms tend to be built where the winds are fairly consistent. It's almost like that consider this when planning them.

                  Chemical batteries aren't the only tool we have for storing power, either. Pumped hydro, compressed air, hydrogen, thermal sto

            • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

              What's MHh?

              Do you mean MWh (MegaWatt hours)?

    • If coal is replaced by natural gas, that is "cleaner", in the sense that per KWh of power, you do emit less CO2, it isn't exactly a switch to green power.

      If you run the coal plants out of business too quickly, you simply end up with a shortage of electricity, leading to brownouts and blackouts. Wind and solar are being installed, but it will take many years before they approach the volume required to replace the 39% of electricity the US generated from coal in 2015.

      And yet we hear about utilities having issues with solar power, and private wind power. You can have all of the power shortges you want because you know that without coal, there will be shortages. I am a dumbass, because I'll just put up more solar panels and supply what I need, all owned by me, and not a utility, for which I'll just get along fine.

      http://grist.org/climate-energ... [grist.org]

      I think the problem is you are stuck in a paradigm from maybe 1970. Solar power is for satellites, wind doesn't exist, and

      • I think the problem is you are stuck in a paradigm from maybe 1970. Solar power is for satellites, wind doesn't exist, and battery technology is zenithed out at ni-cads.

        I'm not, but I can understand why you might think so...

        Solar and Wind are fine, we will continue to build them out until they are perhaps 30% of our total power mix. They may run into problems at 25%, or may extend to 35%, but beyond that you run into dependability issues.

        Batteries are nice for your home, but your home is not the primary energy user in the US.

        But time doesn't stand still. I already use a lot less electricity than I used to. Everything in the house is as efficient as you can get, lights are LED, and I've increased the quality of life by doing so.It isn't just solar becoming cheaper and more efficient, the generation/use equation has the parts moving toward each other.

        I too have gone to LEDs and I also now make purchase decisions based partly on power consumption.

        However, not everyone can make a massive difference

  • How did they do it? Sounds like they invested heavily in Australia and neglected everything else. How did they keep it exempt from the bankruptcy?

    In other words how can I buy a new home and get to keep it after a bankruptcy?

    • Become a corporation.
    • Because in Australia Peabody formed an equity partnership with Mitsui & Co, a japanese energy company, and Thiess Holdings an Australian domestic civil and mining contractor. As a result the Australian operations are not 100% owned by peabody and hence have to be treated as separate entities. Peabody's ownership of those operations will be represented as an asset in shares on the parent companies books. They could potentially be forced to divest some of those shares but that should not affect Austral

  • Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away........ Read more: John Prine - Paradise Lyrics | MetroLyrics
  • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwockNO@SPAMpoetic.com> on Wednesday April 13, 2016 @08:25PM (#51904421)

    Who in this century had the misplaced wisdom to invest $10B in this coal company? How is it possible to be so blind to the changing tide in the energy world? Whatever . . . I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell them if you can find these investors for me.

    • Because even at current market valuations which have massively slashed the value of their assets, Peabody has an asset valuation of over $12 billion. Also while coal may be being supplanted in the energy space in the developed world the total quantity of the seaborne coal trade is still increasing year on year. It is why there are ongoing proposals in Australia to open new coal mines.

  • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2016 @08:29PM (#51904443)

    Since someone will bring it up, might as well be me.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    Worth a look, the percentage of electricity production in the US by renewables is indeed at an all time high, but not as much as you'd think.

    In 1998, it was 11.06% of all electricity produced. In 2015 it was 13.44% of all electricity produced.

    Yes, an increase, but it has been mostly Wind and Solar picking up for the loss of hydro. Hydro is down 28% since 1998, while Wind and Solar are up massively.

    Overall, the US produced 150 billion KWh more electricity in 2015 than in 1998. Nice, but in real terms, nothing to jump up and down about.

    CO2 levels in the air are past 400 PPM, in order to get them to stop climbing and actually FALL, will require efforts far beyond all this in a timeframe that is highly unlikely to happen.

    http://400.350.org/ [350.org]

    The safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. The only way to get there is to immediately transition the global economy away from fossil fuels and into into renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable farming practices.

    The primary problem with this is that what would be required to do it may well start WWIII and lead to massive revolts worldwide. The math just isn't there.

    In many ways, the time to change direction was 30 years ago. The ship has sailed, so we now must prepare for the future that is so clearly coming.

    http://www.globalwarming.org/2... [globalwarming.org]

    But as Newsweekreporter Sharon Begley points out, just to limit atmospheric concentrations to 450 ppm, nations would have to build 10,000 new nuclear power plantsâ"one every other day from now until 2050â"plus a mind boggling 1 million solar roof top panels per day from now until 2050. Even then, 450 ppm is attainable only if global energy efficiency improves by a whopping 500%, population grows only to 9 billion (instead of 10 billion or 11 billion), and global GDP grows at an anemic (near recession) rate of 1.6% per year.

    The problem with people like the 350.org group is that they encourage action without saying how MUCH of that action would be required.

    What would it take to lower CO2 concentrations to 350 ppm? According to Begleyâ(TM)s source, Cal Tech chemist Nathan Lewis, global CO2 emissions would have to drop to zero by 2050.

    Absent revolutionary changes in energy production, distribution, conversion, and storageâ"Nobel-caliber breakthroughs that nobody can plan or predictâ"lowering CO2 emissions to 350 ppm is impossible without draconian cutbacks in population, economic output, or both. Whether they realize it or not, the Climate 350 Club is asking us to go back to the caves.

    In other words, there is ZERO chance of this happening...

    So we need to prepare for a world of 500 PPM CO2, and frankly should prepare for 600 PPM, since 500 PPM will sail right on by and I doubt we'll stop before 600 PPM either...

    • I agree that we will likely see 500 or even 600. For us to really stop this, requires that ALL nations, esp. China, cut their emissions. The only way to make this happen is to start taxing all goods based on where the worst sub-part comes from (i.e. which nation or state). If this tax starts low and then increases yearly, and it is applied as a % (best place like sweden would get 0; worst like China would get 100% of the tax).

      To make this work, requires 2 things; direct monitoring of all nations in the sa
      • For us to really stop this, requires that ALL nations, esp. China, cut their emissions.

        Yes, but by how much?

        That is the question and answer that no one wants to actually hear or talk about.

        Allow me to share the answer... To stop the rise at 450 PPM and hold it there (not even to speak of dropping it to 350), we'd have to cut CO2 output from industrialized countries by 80% by 2050.

        The US is putting out over 5 billion metric tons of CO2 per year. This means that we'd have to cut output to below 1 billion metric tons. All while our population continues to increase, and we have to do it within

        • I actually think the solution will come the other way. I think carbon production is almost impossible to cut by those levels. There is simply too much legacy infrastructure in place and the cost to shift away is too high.

          What I see as the only realistic way to reduce atmospheric carbon levels is to extract it. We talk about taxing carbon production to reduce production, but if instead we were able to remove it from the atmosphere using energy that would other wise be generated but not used we might get t

          • I think carbon production is almost impossible to cut by those levels. There is simply too much legacy infrastructure in place and the cost to shift away is too high.

            Yep, too many companies, too many existing buildings, too many houses, will simply not get upgraded...

            My own home, which isn't the worst or best, is likely to still be standing, as it is, in 2100, still needing tons of power just to exist...

            Renewable energy lends themselves to this because they fluctuate highly. So at times where grids are otherwise having to shed supply the extraction plants would use it instead.

            I'd be open to that idea... the question is, who pays for it in enough scale to dent the problem? Carbon tax?

            • Carbon tax or carbon credits would be the only way to do it. Which raises all kinds of international competitiveness issues.

              But if carbon emissions were taxed at $x / tonne and the govt paid $x for each tonne captured you would create two incentives. The first is to reduce your carbon output, the second would be to create a market to extract it from the atmosphere. Over time the extraction methods would become more efficient and it may be possible to lower the value of x.

              In the end you are aiming to achi

              • Carbon tax or carbon credits would be the only way to do it. Which raises all kinds of international competitiveness issues.

                I tend to agree... but it also brings into issue international treaties...

                As for international competitiveness, given the US is the largest consumer economy they could require a carbon output value for every product crossing the border, or apply a flat % to items without that come without a value. This way the US could use its dominant position to force carbon pricing through its global suppliers.

                Yes, but you can't really... the world no longer works that way, you'd have to renegotiate every treaty in the world, or at least all the trade ones.

                I like Donald Trump's "tough on China" talk as much as the next person, but I am enough of a realist to know that he can't just outright do what he says he wants to do, which is tax China's imports by 30%. He would be breaking treaties, agreements, and would start a trade war.

                So it wou

                • To the best of my knowledge trade agreement allow for universal taxes. Which is what this would be as it would target internal & external producers equally. It is no different to a tax on alcohol for example. Californian wine would be taxed at the same rate as French wine so there is no argument of protectionism or favouritism. The EU is currently exploring the possibility of applying carbon costs to imports, the are calling them BCAs. Part of the reason is EU internal businesses are subject to an

                  • To the best of my knowledge trade agreement allow for universal taxes.

                    In theory that works... but the world doesn't work on theory... :)

                    The EU is currently exploring the possibility of applying carbon costs to imports, the are calling them BCAs.

                    They can call them anything they like, they risk starting a trade war, and the US can take it to the WTO, as can other nations...

                    I'm not from the US so I have a different perspective on the "tough on China" talk and rhetoric that comes out of the US.

                    Some of it is election year pandering... some of it is genuine feeling that open and free trade has simply cost too many jobs in the US. To some extent they are right, to others, it was going to happen regardless.

                    A 30% tax on China imports won't suddenly make US labor competitive, and it would just push productio

                    • Stuff may not be the be all and end all but stuff is what drives a lot of people to go into dual income arrangements. It wasn't cheap chinese imports that increased the size of peoples homes and increased mortgages to go with it.

                      From an external perspective it seems like the issues in the US stems from the concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands. The US has the most really rich people in the world but also has a crazy number of really poor people. For example, to someone who has grown up with

      • The only way to make this happen is to start taxing all goods based on where the worst sub-part comes from (i.e. which nation or state). If this tax starts low and then increases yearly, and it is applied as a % (best place like sweden would get 0; worst like China would get 100% of the tax).

        What do you think the TPP is for? Answer: stopping your proposal from ever happening.

  • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2016 @08:47PM (#51904547)

    http://www.newsweek.com/begley... [newsweek.com]

    The irony is that the above was written in 2009, when CO2 levels were 386 PPM, now they have passed 400 PPM and show no signs of stopping.

    Two viewpoints:

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assesses the causes, magnitude and impacts of global warming, said in 2007 that "currently available" technologies and those on the cusp of commercialization can bring enough zero-carbon energy online to avoid catastrophic climate change. And I regularly get reports from renewable-energy and environmental groups arguing that off-the-shelf technologies, fully deployed, can get us there.

    And on the other side:

    In the opposite corner is the Department of Energy, which in December concluded that we need breakthroughs in physics and chemistry that are "beyond our present reach" to, for instance, triple the efficiency of solar panels; DOE secretary Steven Chu has said we need Nobel caliber breakthroughs.

    ---

    In short:

    That is also the view of energy chemist Nate Lewis of the California Institute of Technology. "It's not true that all the technologies are available and we just need the political will to deploy them," he says. "My concern, and that of most scientists working on energy, is that we are not anywhere close to where we need to be. We are too focused on cutting emissions 20 percent by 2020â"but you can always shave 20 percent off" through, say, efficiency and conservation. By focusing on easy, near-term cuts, we may miss the boat on what's needed by 2050, when CO2 emissions will have to be 80 percent below today's to keep atmospheric levels no higher than 450 parts per million.

    Worth noting is that 450 PPM is 100 PPM higher than the Club 350 people want to keep it at and say is the "safe level".

    So is that possible? Here is a 12 step program from someone who says it could be done. And perhaps in a fantasy world, it could. Most of this list is completely silly stuff.

    http://sustainabilityadvantage... [sustainabi...antage.com]

    1. Mandate net zero energy (NZE) residential and commercial buildings. - Well that sounds nice for new construction, but what do you plan to do with existing buildings? People don't tear down and rebuild stuff every 10 years. This will also raise the price of new buildings making it harder to afford them.

    2. Design walkable, bikeable communities - That works for future communities, but not the ones already built. It also really only works for places that have expensive land or are boxed in by mother nature to small areas. In places that have lots of cheap land, it simply makes no economic sense.

    3. Stabilize the population - Talk about a political minefield. Go see if the Pope is going to start supporting birth control.

    4. Put a price on carbon - You can do this, but in the short term it will just push a billion people into poverty. Do it enough to actually matter and you may end up with riots. You ALSO have to do it world wide, or it doesn't matter.

    5. Capture CO2 - This is an easy suggestion to give, I'd like to see the worldwide pricetag for paying for it. Technically possible things are not always affordable.

    6. Electrify transportation - Even if you banned gas car production tomorrow, at current car production rates it would take nearly 15 years to replace the gas cars in the world with EVs, and that assumes that people will have the money for them, have a place to charge them, and that power plants can somehow produce enough power for a billion cars cleanly. Since you can't actually ban gas cars tomorrow, you might phase this in over a decade or two, at best, but in reality you're looking at multiple decades before even half the car fleet is EV.

    7. Create a national, smart elect

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      I know.

      Again - I will fall back to my usual question.

      As a scientist (i.e. someone of a scientific mind with a BSc, even if not in this area), and especially as a mathematician, I can assume any possible single fact and then extrapolate the logic from there.

      Let's assume, whether people believe it or not, that the levels are rising, it's us causing that, and we're all going to die if we don't do something.

      Now... let's get a list of things we can do. That list is great. Now, let's put our best guesses for th

    • Of course its not possible. CO2 emissions have been rising year over year, especially from the EU. Ask yourself why do CO2 emissions keep rising, even though everyone "agrees" that CO2 causes AGW?
  • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2016 @09:06PM (#51904623) Homepage

    I follow a fair bit of environmental news sources ... but this is only 'news for nerds' in that it's a case of people sitting at home complaining about things that they have little chance of directly affecting.

    The sign that this should be off-topic here is that it doesn't have an appropriate category -- it got shoved into 'hardware'. (I could maybe see it under science (climate change) or technology (issues w/ price competition in energy production) ... but how the hell is this 'hardware'?).

    Can we get this back to being a tech website again? Keep the articles on topic, and kill the 'Entertainment' category? ... unless of course, it's Star Wars ... or maybe comic book related ... okay, you can keep 'Entertainment', unless we see some post about some reality TV show with non-tech people in it or one of the dozen or so singing shows.

  • Coal is a vital ingredient for converting iron into steel. Are there any alternatives for this process?

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.

Working...