Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Coal's Not about to Die in Fact, It's the Fastest Growing Source of Energy in the World,

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Coal's Not about to Die in Fact, It's the Fastest Growing Source of Energy in the World,

Article excerpt

Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian academic who chairs the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recently declared that we have "the means to limit climate change" and that "all we need is the will to change."

That's a rather glib statement given that just five years ago, Mr. Pachauri was lamenting the fact that so many of his fellow Indians were living in dire energy poverty. In July 2009, Mr. Pachauri asked reporters "Can you imagine 400 million people who do not have a light bulb in their homes?" He continued, saying "with the resources of coal that India has, we really don't have any choice but to use coal."

Therein lies the story. While the latest IPCC report warns us, once again, about the possible dangers of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, the energy story of the moment is coal. And because coal remains an essential fuel for producing electricity in rich and poor countries alike, there's little reason to believe that we will see any significant decline in global carbon-dioxide emissions in the years and decades ahead.

Indeed, coal may be the energy villain of the moment, but the carbon-heavy fuel has been the fastest-growing source of global energy since 1973. And the torrid growth continues. In 2013 alone, global coal consumption jumped by about 2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. That increase was about 50 percent more than the rate of growth in oil use and about three times the growth seen in natural gas consumption.

Coal-fired generators now provide about 40 percent of all global electricity. And while the United States and wealthy countries in Western Europe are mandating and subsidizing wind and solar projects, countries throughout Asia are rapidly expanding their coal-fired generation capacity. India alone is planning to add about 90,000 megawatts of new coal-fired capacity by 2018. Globally, some 500,000 megawatts of new coal-fired capacity is either under construction or planned for the next two and half decades. That's more than 1.5 times as much coal-fired capacity as now exists in the United States.

Coal use is growing so fast that the International Energy Agency forecasts that within four years or so, global coal use will exceed global oil use on a Btu basis. …

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