Like the “voice crying in the wilderness,” German Finance Minister Christian Lindner this week left Green Party activists and others enamored by the green religion gnashing their teeth.
“Until it is clear,” said Lindner, “that energy is available and affordable, we should end dreams of phasing out electricity from coal in 2030. Now is not the time to shut down power plants.”
Lindner also urged Germans to expand domestic production of natural gas as well as the production of renewable energies. Germany’s cost for electricity has doubled in the past 20 years, such that the nation now pays some of the world’s highest prices to turn on the lights.
Over in London, British purists are set to celebrate the long-anticipated end to all use of coal for electricity by next October, a year ahead of earlier schedules. Already, there is very little coal being delivered to or from Newcastle.
British electricity prices have soared in recent years, with the average net selling value (pence per kilowatt-hour) to all consumers (scaled to 1990 GDP) rising from 2.28 pence in 2000 to 12.43 pence in 2021 and 21.77 pence during the energy crisis in 2022.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., President Biden (or those who may really be in charge) continues to rail against not just coal, but oil and gas, as if generating electricity and fueling motor vehicles were the only uses America has for those “fossil fuels.” Electricity prices in the U.S. vary widely from state to state but overall have risen at rates above the inflation rate during the 21st Century.
Biden’s EPA has threatened to dismantle 60 percent of the U.S. power supply nearly overnight. The U.S. coal fleet is facing six rules designed to work in unison to accelerate plant closures. Biden’s Clean Power Plan 2.0 has even his own Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman, Willie Phillips, saying, “I am extremely concerned about the pace of retirements we are seeing of generators which are needed for reliability.”
The Biden Administration is also spending U.S. tax dollars to bribe other nations to cut their use of coal. Last November, Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) accepted a $20 billion commitment by the Biden White House via a “just energy transition partnership” toward a goal of capping carbon dioxide releases from its electricity sector at 290 megatons by 2030.
The JETP says it will cost $600 billion to wean Indonesia from coal by 2050 – five years earlier than its previous proposal. Indonesia, with 25 billion tons of coal reserves (11th largest in the world), is today the world’s fifth largest coal producer, using about 100 million tons domestically and sending 400 million tons abroad. Don’t bet on Indonesia to quit coal soon.
In India, by contrast, the coal ministry just announced plans to increase the nation’s coal production to 1.404 billion tonnes by 2027, with an eye to further increase production to 1.577 billion tonnes by 2030. That’s a big jump from current production totals of 1.0 billion tonnes.
Currently, coal-fired power plants in India are using about 821 million tonnes per year, but the ministry is anticipating major growth in coal demand in the coming years. To meet demand, the ministry is planning to open new coal mines, expand existing mine capacities, and better utilize captive and commercial mines.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom the coal-hating President Biden is meeting this week, in April 2021 pledged to “strictly control coal-fired power generation projects” in China – with his fingers crossed. In the real world (not the green fantasy world), the Chinese government continues to grow the nation’s coal industry.
In the two years prior to Xi’s pledge, China approved 127 coal plants with a combined capacity of 54 gigawatts. Since the pledge, that number has risen to 182 plants with 131 gigawatts of coal power. The upshot – China has over-doubled its new coal power capacity while the U.S. and European nations have shrunk theirs.
Irish journalist Thomas O’Reilly predicts that “the growing divide” between the West, China, and the Global South will be a hot topic at the upcoming UN Climate Conference (COP 28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The self-named “High Ambition Coalition” of European Union member states and the United Kingdom is expected to push for a global commitment to phase out new coal production worldwide despite its being the fuel of choice in much of Asia and the developing world. [Coal is plentiful and affordable, qualities critical for energy development in poor nations.]
The representatives of rich, mostly former colonial, nations want to force other nations to adopt more aggressive climate goals. They flatly oppose the use of carbon capture technologies by developing nations, one way these nations try to appease the ravenous West’s demands for obedience to their diktats.
A more likely outcome at Dubai is that China will lead its own coalition of coal-using and coal-producing nations to tell the Europeans (and Biden Democrats) to pound sand.
China, along with India, Russia (which is also ramping up coal production, even in heavily snow-covered Elga, Siberia), and South Africa (the world’s fifth largest coal producer), are bonded together in the BRICS bloc. Even founding member Brazil is the world’s 25th largest coal user – but its coal reserves are the world’s 15th largest.
BRICS just added six countries – Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE (host to COP 28) to its membership. None of these nations appears eager to kowtow to the EU or U.S. The harder the West stamps its Rumpelstiltskin-like feet, the less likely Net Zero will remain a global vision. The world wants and needs more energy and will not let the decadent West dictate just what energy is “acceptable” and what is not.
But the West, too, would do well to abandon the “impossible dream” of decarbonization of a society comprised of carbon units (humans).
Emeritus British engineering professor Michael Kelly says while, technologically, the West MIGHT achieve Net Zero with a vast fleet of wind farms and a gigantic store of green hydrogen, barring a series of dramatic technological breakthroughs the costs of getting there would make Britain’s recent energy price crisis “look like nothing.”
With China, India, and much of the developing world saying “Nyet to Net Zero,” maybe it is time for the “virtuous” coalition (the West) to put a stop to its own wishful thinking.
This article originally appeared at Townhall