Coal is Just Getting its “Second Wind”

Coal Power Plants Expand Globally

… In 2017, after two years of declines, International Energy Agency figures showed global coal demand rising to 5.357 million tonnes of coal equivalent (TCE). __ Coal is King of the World

China is building new coal plants, of course. But looming in the background are India and other nations of the emerging and third worlds.

India seems set to replace China as the world’s biggest coal consumer while Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam have also registered big increases.

“Many developing economies view coal as important to their economic development because of its ready availability and relatively low cost,” the IEA said in it World Energy Outlook 2018 report. __

Coal is Still King Because IT WORKS!!!

Something huge keeps getting lost when the babbling elites discuss the future of global energy. They keep talking about “the shift to wind and solar” and the “move away from coal.” But people with inside knowledge of how power grids operate know better. Coal will be around for as long as it takes humans to develop safe, new, affordable, clean generations of nuclear fission and fusion.

Coal power plants work. When you turn them on, they output useful electrical power at their rated levels. When you turn them off, they stop. This ability to dispatch a given level of useful power on command is indispensable for a modern industrial society. Wind and solar can not do this — and they will never be able to do it affordably, regardless of the latest promises for grand new energy storage systems. For most of the world, it is either coal or no reliable power — thus no reliable industry.

China Consumes Half the World’s Coal

China… consumes half the world’s coal. More than 4.3 million Chinese are employed in the country’s coal mines. China has added 40 percent of the world’s coal capacity since 2002, a huge increase for 16 years. “I had to do the calculation three times,” said Carlos Fernández Alvarez, a senior energy analyst at the International Energy Agency. “I thought it was wrong. It’s crazy.”

China is also building large numbers of coal power plants overseas for other countries.

Chinese companies are building coal plants in 17 countries, according to Urgewald. Its regional rival, Japan, is in the game, too: Nearly 60 percent of planned coal projects developed by Japanese companies are outside the country, mostly financed by Japanese banks. __ Seattle Times

Poland is Hosting Latest Climate Talks

Polish coal imports are rising rapidly. This is vital to Poland’s rapidly ramping industrial output.

Poland’s thermal coal imports for the first nine months of the year almost doubled versus the same period in 2017 to 11.8 million tonnes, most of which came from Russia, data from the state-run Industrial Development Agency (ARP) showed on Monday.

… Poland’s annual coal imports had already risen in 2017 to almost 13 million tonnes from 8.3 million in 2016 as domestic production fell because of limited investment in Polish state mines. Poland also turned to the United States for increased supplies. __

Simply put, if a contemporary nation wants to be taken seriously, it must have reliable and affordable power production to support its industrial and commercial capacity. Anything less is chickensh!t.

Clean Coal

In the US, coal was scheduled to become obsolete, by the late Obama administration. But something happened in 2016 which changed the entire outlook for coal. And now the search for clean coal in the US is on.

“Clean” coal is a rich vein for American investors to mine, thanks to a lucrative subsidy offered by the U.S. government. For many producers of the fuel, the path to profit leads through a laboratory at the University of North Dakota.

The school’s Energy and Environmental Research Center reported earning about $5 million in fiscal 2015-16 performing laboratory tests that qualify clean-coal producers for the subsidy. On any given day, EERC technicians take a sample of up to one ton of the coal from a producer and burn it in a miniature boiler to determine whether it reduces a specific pollutant enough to make the grade.

A stamp of approval from EERC, or a handful of other labs serving the industry, unlocks a tax credit worth more than $7 a ton to producers and their investors. __–sector.html?

Government tax credits are useful for “clean coal” projects — but tax credits should not be confused with mandates, loan guarantees, or active subsidies that are wasted on unreliable/unpredictable sources of low quality energy such as wind and solar. At the end of the day, coal plants produce useful, on-demand, high quality electrical power. “Renewables” cannot, and never will do.

Advanced Nuclear Is the Only Low-Cost Alternative to Coal

For the US, natural gas turbines can produce abundant and affordable high quality power, on demand. Natural gas power has displaced a significant amount of coal power generation in the US. Nuclear power has been displacing coal power for several decades — but nuclear plants are slowly being phased out.

For most other nations of the world, the cost of natural gas power is much higher than in the US, due to the costs of transportation of fuel and power plant construction and maintenance. Costs for coal are predictable, and transportation of coal is easy and cheap.

The world’s coal supplies can last for several centuries. The eventual end of coal-for-power will be the coming of clean, safe, reliable, affordable advanced nuclear power — both fission and fusion. Thanks to the “green parties” of the modern west, safe and clean nuclear power have been delayed for decades. Thus we owe the global dependency on coal in large part to the “faux environmentalists” who call themselves green (eg Germany).

When hypocrisy and censorship are necessary foundations of political ideology, the rot will eventually bring the entire edifice crashing down.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Learn to be Dangerous in the world as it is, discarding wishful thinking as far as possible.

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11 Responses to Coal is Just Getting its “Second Wind”

  1. Matt Musson says:

    Just wait until someone finds the right catalyst to convert CO2 into liquid fuel. Then people will start building coal plants because they create carbon dioxide.

    • jfon says:

      A catalyst only makes it easier for a chemical reaction to take place, it doesn’t make entropy reverse. If you got energy out of a reaction – carbon plus oxygen to carbon dioxide, for example – the only way to reverse that reaction is to put energy in. Water doesn’t run uphill, you have to pump it.

      • alfin2101 says:

        Agreed. CO2 may be an ideal feedstock for some valuable product or another, but I am uncertain what that product might be — in economic terms.

        There has been a lot of talk here and there about using process heat from advanced gas-cooled very high temperature nuclear reactors to make valuable chemicals using harvested CO2 from large-scale combustion processes. But it is easy to find better feedstocks for just about any chemical process than CO2.

        CO2 is an ideal plant food, almost as if it were meant to be used that way!

        • Jim says:

          But as you probably know plants don’t get energy from carbon dioxide. They get energy from sunlight. The carbon dioxide is a source of carbon atoms not energy.

          • alfin2101 says:

            As I said, CO2 is plant food. Whether CO2 provides direct energy to plants is neither here nor there with respect to CO2 being food for plants.

            The carbon in CO2 forms the carbohydrates (including cellulose) in plants and provides material for nucleic acids, amino acids, and other fundamental building blocks of the plant and its products. Foods provide many benefits beyond mere energy.

            Your point that CO2 does not provide energy directly to plants is what is commonly called a non sequitur. If you removed the leading “But…” from your comment it would not be so clearly a non sequitur, but rather a basic primer for a child regarding the roles of sunlight and CO2 for plants.

      • Jim says:

        Nonsense. Carbon dioxide is already oxidized and is not a source of chemical energy anymore than water. Science education in this country is very poor.

        • alfin2101 says:

          Neither jfon nor anyone else is claiming that CO2 is a source of chemical energy. Matt’s comment was with regard to the hope for improved catalysts capable of reversing the combustion reaction which forms CO2. jfon merely pointed out that a lot of energy would be required to power that reaction to form fuel from CO2, no matter how good the catalyst.

          I would agree with you that science education in the US is poor, else the grand crusade of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming would not have nearly so much support among the public. Academics, lobbyists, bureaucrats, and politicians would continue to support CAGW, due to the corrupting incentives integral to that crusade.

          • Jim says:

            Matt refers to converting CO2 to “liquid fuel”. This is on the topic of the use of coal which is used for the energy it has. Reversing the oxidation of the carbon in CO2 would take with perfect efficiency just as much energy as released in it’s oxidation. Plants do this by utilizing the energy in sunlight. It’s the sunlight which provides the energy. There is no available energy in the CO2.

          • alfin2101 says:

            There is no such thing as perfect efficiency, so it would actually take more energy to make liquid fuel from CO2 than was released from coal combustion. The discussion was about a hypothetical catalyst that would minimise the amount of energy required for the reversal — perhaps using waste heat from power generation or another high energy industrial process.

            No one here claimed that CO2 in itself would provide chemical energy. Perhaps if you looked on some global warming websites or “clean energy” websites you can find someone making that mistake, then set them right.

  2. Improbus says:

    Coal isn’t being phased out because its dirty (it is) but because it is not economically viable in the US. You can thank fracking for that. There is no way that coal can compete with gas in the US market. Is it economically viable to send coal via ships? Because that is the only way that coal producers are going to be able to sell their product.

    • alfin2101 says:

      It is far more complicated than how you put it, but certainly shale gas has made gas turbine and combined cycle gas and steam turbine power plants more competitive.
      The decline in coal power production in the US seen in the graph above was caused by government regulation plus shifts in market competitiveness due to the ramping up of shale natural gas. Obama vowed to put coal companies out of business, and he made a lot of progress toward regulating them to death. He would have done the same thing to shale oil & gas, but his regulators had their hands full trying to kill offshore oil & gas along with the entire US coal industry. He was trusting in a Clinton administration to continue his economic reign of terror.

      In this graph:–energy-consumption-by-source/
      you see very little change year on year. The true competitiveness of coal vs. gas cannot be determined in the US until the regulatory picture is cleaned up a bit.

      Globally, it is an entirely different story, where coal is significantly cheaper to transport and store for most nations of the world. That is why Chinese and Japanese companies are building coal power plants around the world as fast as they can.

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