Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Coal Question


   Want to know how bad coal is?  Check out this video from Grist


Coal is the enemy of the human race, video edition

Here's a short, plainspoken video from the Sierra Club that explains why coal sucks:
(Kind of leaves out the role of natural gas in displacing coal, but let's not get picky.)
It was one thing when there were no viable alternatives to coal -- you could make the brute utilitarian argument that all the lost lives, suffering, and ecological destruction were worth it for the benefits of electrification. But now there are alternatives. That means the suffering imposed by coal is a choice. And it's the wrong choice. Phasing out coal entirely is one of the great humanitarian projects of the 21st century

     So, how're we doing?  We'll its a bit bumpy, but coal has dropped from 50% to 40% since 2007.     We're not exactly "leaving it in the ground".  And as natural gas prices rise towards the international price, those who are able to fuel switch, will probably switch back to coal.    The IEA (see below) says $5 is the critical price, when the utilities will move back to coal in a big way. 

Here's the chart:
coal retakes natgas

Read more:

IEA says U.S. gas prices of US$5 could spur return to coal

Reuters | 13/05/27 8:27 AM ET
More from Reuters
Gary Gardiner/Bloomberg News
U.S. gas prices of around US$5 per million British thermal units could prompt the world’s largest economy to step up use of coal, after years of cutting back on its consumption in favour of cleaner-burning gas, the West’s energy agency said on Monday.
The United States’ shale revolution has driven up domestic gas production and led to a drop in gas prices.
The production increase has led to plans to export the fuel, with Wood Mackenzie predicting exports of 50 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by 2020.
Such exports are widely expected to boost U.S. domestic gas prices, but it is still unclear how much they will rise.
“Our analysis shows if U.S. gas prices come to around $5 mmBtu – it is about $4.30 per mmBtu now – we may well see coal come back,” Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, told reporters at an industry conference.
Only regulatory intervention to bar a switch back to coal could prevent greater coal use if gas prices rise to $5 per mmBtu, Birol said.
“If it is left only to economics, around $5 we may see a (coal) comeback, which would definitely be a development which would catch many people by surprise,” Birol said.
U.S. natural gas futures were trading at about $4.20 per mmBtu on Monday.
U.S. coal exports reached record levels in 2012 as producers exported their coal instead of selling it at home.
The surge in U.S. exports has, in turn, pressured Asian coal prices. It was one of the factors leading to a drop of around 30 percent in Australian coal prices from a record high of $130 per tonne in 2011 to under $90 per tonne.
Rising U.S. shale oil production will help meet most of the world’s new oil demand in the next five years, the IEA, which advises the United States and 27 other developed nations, has said. (Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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