Thursday, April 16, 2015

Coal Is Dying All by Itself

Coal is over (Credit: Rainforest Action Network) Click to Enlarge.
Coal, the No. 1 cause of climate change, is dying.  Last year saw a record number of coal plant retirements in the United States, and a study last week from Duke University found that even China, which produces and consumes more coal than the rest of the world put together, is expected to hit peak coal use within a decade, in order to meet its promise to President Barack Obama to reduce its carbon emissions starting in 2030.
The “war on coal” narrative isn’t simply misleading, it also distracts from the very real problem of how to prepare coal mining communities and energy consumers (i.e., everyone) for an approaching future in which coal is demoted to a bit role after a century at center stage.

That’s the conclusion of a sweeping new account of the coal industry, Coal Wars, authored by leading energy analyst Richard Martin.  The book dives deep into a simple truth:  as long as we’re still burning coal for the majority of our energy, all the solar panels, electric cars, and vegetarian diets in the world won’t do a thing to stop global warming.  Saving the planet starts with getting off coal.

The good news, Martin reports, is that transition is already underway, regardless of stonewalling by congressional Republicans, and with or without Obama’s new regulations. Martin documents evidence of coal’s decline from the mountain villages of Kentucky to the open-pit mines of Wyoming, and from lavish industry parties in Shanghai to boardrooms in Germany.  Everywhere he looks, market forces (for instance, natural gas made cheap by the fracking boom), technological advances, and environmental laws are conspiring to favor cleaner forms of energy over coal.  At the same time, Martin writes, more and more financial institutions and private investors are starting to factor climate change into their investment decisions, which “would be a death blow that no EPA regulation could equal.”

Read more at Coal Is Dying All by Itself

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