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Coal Has a Future

October 4, 2016

In spite of the media’s constant harangue over the dangers of using coal and this administration’s war on coal, the future of coal isn’t as black as one might think.

While most coal is used for power generation, a significant amount, approximately one-third of worldwide coal production, is used for making steel.

Toward this end, Ramaco Development Corp. is investing $90 million in a new metallurgical coal mine in West Virginia, which will create around 400 jobs. While this is a small number compared with the number of jobs that have been lost due to the war on coal, it is important to the communities located near the mine.

While steel demand in China has recently fallen, the production of steel will grow as China’s economy resumes growth, albeit at a slower pace. Additionally, underdeveloped and developing countries, such as India, will also grow and use more steel. Metallurgical coal, i.e., coking coal, usage will grow.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that worldwide coal usage, metallurgical and steam coal combined, will increase between now and 2040.

World coal consumption from EIA

World coal consumption from EIA

While this won’t match the explosive growth during the past dozen years, which was fueled by China, it is still significant.

This growth will come from developing countries.

Graph of Non-OECD coal usage in quadrillion BTUs from EIA

Graph of Non-OECD coal usage in quadrillion BTUs from EIA

A large amount of this usage will come from India, which plans to double its coal production by 2020.

India's domestic coal consumption from EIA

India’s domestic coal consumption from EIA

But, India isn’t alone in its use of coal for power generation.

Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines also intend to increase coal consumption for power generation. And it’s not just in Asia that the use of coal is growing: Turkey plans to build 80 new coal-fired power plants.

While China’s use of coal will not grow as rapidly, it will still grow around 15% between today and 2025, according to the EIA.

The idea that developing nations will commit economic suicide by not increasing their generation of electricity using the least costly method available, i.e., coal, is delusional.

If Germany, the embodiment of renewables, is failing to reduce its use of coal for power generation, why should anyone expect developing nations to not use coal to increase living standards in their countries?

The United States can reduce its use of coal for power generation, because it has large quantities of cheap natural gas. India, and other developing countries, don’t have inexpensive natural gas, so they must turn to coal, or nuclear, for base load power generation.

The growth in the use of coal in developing (non-OECD) nations will more than offset any reductions the United States may make. As a result, CO2 emissions will increase.

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Nothing to Fear, Chapter 15, An Alternative Hypothesis, describes why the sun is the far more likely cause of global warming..

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon:

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Concerned Public permalink
    October 4, 2016 6:39 pm

    Hi Donn,

    This is maybe an old point, but I remember reading that Natural Gas (CH4) emits Carbon on burning and in addition to the leaked Natural Gas (e.g. during production), – which is much more powerful for the Green House effect – means that when you add the two, the Green House effect of CH4 is similar to coal i.e removing one reason to ditch coal.

    There was a TV program on last week here in Netherlands about lobbying and one episode was about the local climate plan here (to meet the Paris goals). The story told was that Royal Dutch Shell (oil & gas) teamed up with their traditional enemy, Greenpeace to push for a mutual goal – closure of the last 3 x coal power stations in in Holland (5 x old coal stations are gone already but the last three are spanking new and closing will cost 2,800 jobs, plus lawsuits from the owners etc).
    In the final plan, Euros 18 Billion is to be paid over time via higher domestic energy bills (a tax) to finance the wind industry. I liken it to mafia dealing since the wind can lie low over all Northern Europe for days at a time so it cannot be called an energy supply (security of supply being a given).

    You mentioned coal used to make steel and I recalled reading about TATA steel here in the Netherlands and who they are planning to greatly reduce CO2 emissions in steelmaking (on Google there seem to be other plans along same lines).
    So, in other words some CO2 is taken out of the coal equation.

    Tata Steel is committed to investing in breakthrough technology to enhance the sustainable performance of our products and processes.

    In 2010, as a part of the ULCOS project, we built a €20 million HIsarna pilot plant at our IJmuiden steelworks in the Netherlands. HIsarna is a revolutionary cyclone converter-based iron-making process, directly converting iron ore and coal into iron, without any pre-treatment of the ore and coal.

    The new technology could reduce CO2 emissions by 20% compared to conventional iron making. In combination with carbon capture and storage techniques, CO2 reductions of up to 70% should be possible.

    Thanks for the great posts
    Best regards,

    • October 4, 2016 7:59 pm

      Burning natural gas in a power plant emits about half the CO2 that a coal-fired power plant emits.
      Methane emissions that occur during drilling and from pipeline leaks also add to the so-called green house gas effect.
      There’s no scientific way to try and equate the combined effect of burning natural gas and the methane emissions and then compare them with CO2 emissions from coal.

      I don’t live in Europe, or the Netherlands, so can’t comment on local TV programs. I have been to the Netherlands on multiple occasions, on business, spending time in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Maastricht. I have a reasonably good understanding of your country, and admire what you did and went through during WWII.

      As you said, and as I noted in the TATA web site, the new cyclone technology will only reduce CO2 emissions by 20%. They went on to say the rest could be captured and sequestered (CCS). CCS is a pipe dream for many reasons, which I have discussed in earlier articles.

      TATA isn’t accomplishing very much except getting some good public relations.
      A 20% reduction in CO2 emissions will be a drop in the bucket.
      It’s pathetic that any company is spending money on a new process unless it is also lowering costs and increasing quality.
      Thanks for your comment. Very interesting, as I wasn’t aware of the new process.

    • October 5, 2016 9:28 am

      It looks like the Dutch Parliament is pushing to have all electricity producing coal plants to be closed (to satisfy the Paris Climate Agreement). However, the decrease in CO2 emissions will be greatly offset by the increasing need to import electricity from coal plants in other countries. The lack of economic planning by politicians amasses me. They seem to ignore the realities of the market place.

      • October 5, 2016 12:15 pm

        European governments have bought the CO2 cause of climate change hypothesis hook line and sinker.
        Their lack of critical thinking is astounding.

  2. October 5, 2016 9:35 am

    The market place for coal is divided into thermal coal (for electricity production) and metallurgical coal (or coking coal, used for smelting). Presently, coking coal is having a rally. The coal deposits are different and have their own pricing.


  1. Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #244 | Watts Up With That?

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