By Fred Palmer, Senior Fellow – CO2 Policy, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and Leader Saving US Coal
April 22, 2021 - “Abandon coal now or face catastrophe US envoy says” is the headline of an April 1 story in The Sydney Morning Herald covering a virtual conference hosted by IEA and the British Government. During the conference Kerry stated he “did not want to be a scold”, but the science dictates that coal use must be abandoned by 2030 worldwide or catastrophic global warming will result.
The predicted temperature outcome set by Envoy Kerry is an increase of “over four degrees” warming unless all coal plants are shut down by 2030, starting now. Ignored by Kerry is recognition that the massive coal market worldwide is back over 8 billion tons/ per year. Kerry says this huge industry so essential to human health and welfare must be eliminated, no matter the damage to people and their lives. Too, by curtailing coal based electric supply, electric costs will soar as they have in Europe and blackouts will occur around the globe, like California and Texas in the US.
The Kerry agenda in the US would have enormous adverse impacts on human health, welfare and economic activity by making US electricity scarce and expensive, reversing the enormous success of previous Presidents and the US Government on a bi-partisan basis. The National Academy of Engineering puts electrification as number one in greatest engineering achievements of the 20th Century. Credit FDR, JFK and President Cater as responsible for this achievement. And credit President Carter for the proliferation of the coal plant buildout in the US from 1978 to completion about 1985.
China, India, Japan and ASEAN countries know our history and emulate it. Many of these countries are building new coal power plant capacity, and in all instances, rely on coal to electricity for economic success and the human health and welfare of their citizens. Kerry knows this as he has met with China in the last two weeks and no doubt his rhetoric at the late March conference is designed to slow this down. But to no avail as the build out should and will continue.
All of these countries not only understand how the US succeeded from coal-based electricity, they understand that we still do.
For example, in West Virginia alone there are 8 coal plants providing electricity, one of life’s essentials, both to the citizens of the State and also the PJM pool. West Virginia citizens get almost 90% of their electricity supply from coal plants: are the citizens of West Virginia to do without?
The PJM Pool is an eastern power pool that serves 60 million people in a part of the country that gets hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. Without the West Virginia plants the next eastern polar vortex like Texas experienced, is likely to result in massive deaths and human hardship among the 60 million people. It would be irresponsible now that we know of the country’s precarious supply situation to shut in any of the WVA plants and for that matter all other US coal plant wherever located.
The coal using countries abroad have population in the billions of people. The leaders of these great lands know that modernity itself has been and will be advanced through electricity generated through coal. Many of them including China participated with Frank Clemente and I in preparing The Global Value of Coal for the IEA the 2012 study which predicted continued coal growth which has occurred and is still underway, the coronavirus notwithstanding. The IEA description then is still valid today:
”Public-opinion related to the consumption of coal is directed primarily to its environmental impact in light of ongoing efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and tackle global climate change. Nevertheless, the benefits of Coal as a widely available and relatively cheap source of energy underscores it’s important role in energy security, economic development and the alleviation of energy poverty world-wide. Further development and commercial availability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies will harness the potential of Coal and its contribution to sustainable and equal energy spaces.”
CCS could be a promising opportunity for Coal in the United States but only with the full and complete backing of the federal government. The National Coal Council did numerous studies for the Obama administration in this space and they are readily available online. The FutureGen project was a key part of the development of CCS here; it was the government that backed away from FutureGen and CCS, not the coal industry. And is the government that needs to step up to a similar approach once more.
Before ending, I have one brief thought on Envoy Kerry statements on the science of catastrophic global warming. We will have a more in depth look from Craig Idso on how President Biden thinks about the science following the summit this week.
Kerry makes a statement that “Mother Earth, the planet, is screaming at us”; presumably he means the warming is ominous and continuing and we must act now. But the Kerry science referred to is from flawed computer models that run hot, can’t hind-cast and are flux adjusted, not observations. If you check out the latest satellite readings provided by Roy Spencer, every day, you will see cooling, not warming, and you will see the current temperature fractionally below the satellite baseline going back to 1979! And remember these readings are 100% confirmed by radiosonde, or weather balloons
The present satellite readings are consistent with the cold winter in Europe, Asia including China and our current cold in the US. I play golf and follow the European Tour, too, and they were in Austria this past week. The event was one by a USA boy, praise the lord, but the golf dress looked like they were skiing, not playing golf. l will take warm, any day, thank you.