Friday, March 24, 2017

Coal Choking in Global Markets

The London Smog of 1952 was driven
largely by odd weather conditions and pollution
from coal-burning power plants. Today, many
areas of the world that experience this type
of pollution, notably China and India, are trying
to eliminate their reliance on coal and moving to
cleaner energy sources.  Click for photo credit.
After the presidential election, I made several environmental predictions for the coming four years that are already coming true. One of the predictions was, Coal Stays Dead. A major theme of the Trump campaign was that he was going to bring back coal jobs to Appalachia. The reality is that the global market for coal is down and political support for coal is like providing political support to victrola manufacturers or Blockbuster video stores. Coal is your grandfather's energy source. It is dirty, out of date, inefficient, and there are many cleaner and more efficient energy sources out there. Plus it takes one person today to do the same job of many coal miners of the past.

Don't just listen to me. Look at the market.

The Guardian reported earlier this week that coal producing power plants are declining significantly around the world. Nations are moving to much cleaner fuel sources like natural gas, wind, and solar. While the U.S. could artificially support the coal industry, the long-term prognosis is not good given the global energy market.

As I wrote in this piece earlier this year, coal will always have a place in the U.S. energy portfolio, but it will diminish in significance as our technology moves us forward into cleaner and greener energy sources. Coal jobs today are like the blacksmith jobs of the past. We are moving into a time of artisanal coal.

The question that becomes important in the global energy market is whether or not it is best to move forward with technological advances in energy production. Even though the U.S. has an abundance of coal, it also has an abundance of other energy sources. As the debate advances in this country on energy policy, the global market is going to be a large driver in whatever happens with coal. Right now, the future of coal is not strong.


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