American Coal Council Conference of the Parties (COP21) Statement
Monday, November 23, 2015
Posted by: Jason Hayes
November 20, 2015
Coal is a critical resource that is vital to robust economic development and improving the quality and longevity of human life. It is an abundant, affordable, accessible, and reliable energy source – and that is the reason it is the go-to fuel for 40% of the world’s electricity needs. Future coal use is projected to grow as developing nations continue to electrify and global population and urbanization increase. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast that global coal use will reach 9 billion tons annually by 2019.1 Global emissions will rise as well. IEA estimates that developing nations will account for 70% of global carbon emissions from energy in 2030, and for 170% of the increase in those emissions from 2013 to 2030.2
Global coal reserves are larger than those of oil and natural gas combined. Suggestions to leave coal in the ground in the pursuit of carbon reduction objectives are not aligned with the reality of the world’s energy needs nor the role of coal in meeting them. They effectively ignore the plight of the 1.3 billion people on earth who have no electricity, and nearly double that number who have only limited access to it. They ignore or discount the hardship and harm from cooking over wood or dung and exposure to high levels of indoor air pollution from doing so.
An estimated 1,200,000 megawatts (MW) of coal-fueled generation are planned or under construction globally, which is nearly 40% of the total generating capacity for all technologies planned or under construction. China and India together account for 70% of this amount, and Asia in total accounts for 89% of it.3
For the COP 21 discussions to be most effective, they must focus on the best ways of using energy resources to balance economic, social, and environmental objectives. The key to emissions reductions lies not in leaving essential energy sources in the ground, but in continuing to develop technologies for lowering emissions while continuing to use those resources. The U.S. has been a leader in that area, reducing conventional emissions (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter) from coal-based power generation plants by nearly 90% over the past four decades.
The current U.S. trajectory of regulation of the electric power sector, including the EPA’s Clean Power Plan for existing power plants and its rule for new power plants, would thwart technology development for greenhouse gas reduction. Furthermore, a recent analysis showed the Clean Power Plan would reduce global temperature by only 1/100th of a degree Fahrenheit (0.01˚F) and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 by only 0.2%.4 Clearly, EPA’s rules are not a solution. They would have the additional negative consequences of increasing U.S. energy costs and driving energy intensive businesses to other countries with far less stringent environmental requirements including for carbon emissions. This “leakage” could increase global emissions.
A policy path that supports deployment of advanced coal-fueled 21st century power plants using high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) technologies and accelerates the development of carbon capture and storage technology is an essential component of any plan to address global emissions reduction. Without that, global energy demands and greenhouse gas reductions will not align. There will be no low carbon world without low carbon coal.
2 Written Testimony of Stephen Eule, Vice President Institute for 21st Century Energy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, November 18, 2015, p.7.
4 American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, “Climate Effects of EPA’s Final Clean Power Plan”, August 6, 2015, p.1.