At last week’s Environmental Protection Agency public hearing on the withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan in Charleston, anti-coal activists were out in force. The meeting was swamped with activists — Climate Justice Alliance, Sierra Club, Citizens Climate Lobby, Natural Resources Defense Council, etc. Several groups also met at the University of Charleston, to discuss, according to the New York Times, the “environmental, health and climate benefits of reducing coal consumption.”
They apparently do not understand that the abundant, low-cost energy provided by coal laid the foundations of the industrial revolution and modern society.
Low-cost energy provided continuous power for factories and trains that transported goods and raw materials. In the 20th century coal-fired power stations provided the reliable, inexpensive supply of electricity that is the lifeblood of our economy.
The world still has huge resources of coal (the U.S. has a 381-year reserve at current usage rates) that could be burned in modern clean power stations. Sadly, in the Western world, environmentalists are working to shut down existing coal-fired stations, and prevent new ones from being built. Yet, hundreds of new coal-fired stations are being built in the rest of the world to power expanding economies.
Developing countries must build new coal-fired stations to provide their poverty-stricken populations with reliable low-cost electricity. But environmentalists have convinced international development banks that coal is evil and persuaded the banks to squander vast sums on expensive solar power that keeps the home lights burning for a few hours every evening.
So why is coal vilified? It is because of the mistaken belief that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) is causing dangerous global warming, and coal stations are indeed a major source of CO2 emissions. This belief rests entirely on the output of computer models that are programmed to predict warming if CO2 increases. The models assume what they are supposed to prove!
Speaking at the America First Energy Conference, on Nov. 9 in Houston, Texas, University of Delaware climatology professor Dr. David Legates showed that climate models consistently predict far greater temperature rises than are actually observed. He explained that models are “tuned” to give the results desired for political purposes.
If it was true that man-made CO2 caused dangerous global warming, the best option would be nuclear power that is proven, safe, and environmentally friendly. But environmental extremists claim that nuclear power is too dangerous even though the only recorded deaths from nuclear power generation occurred at the obsolete and mal-operated Chernobyl station in the Ukraine.
The next best option is fracking for natural gas. This has been spectacularly successful in the U.S. and there is currently an abundant supply of gas from fracking. Yet, despite its excellent safety record, activists violently oppose fracking.
Instead, activists push wind and solar power that only exist because they are heavily subsidized.
Emissions regulations that block the construction of new efficient and clean coal-fired stations result in the need to extend the life of old, more polluting stations. So, the war against coal is also a war against a cleaner environment. It’s time to end the war on coal.
By Bryan Leyland, an Auckland, New Zealand-based consulting engineer and the founding secretary and energy issues adviser of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), and Tom Harris, executive director of ICSC.