We must end the ‘war on coal’
By Bryan Leyland and Tom Harris
OTTAWA – OPINION – At this week’s Environmental Protection Agency public hearing on the withdrawal of the ‘Clean Power Plan’ in Charleston, West Virginia, anti-coal activists were out in force. The meeting was swamped with activists—Climate Justice Alliance, Sierra Club, Citizens Climate Lobby, Mid‐Ohio Valley Climate Action, Moms Clean Air Force, 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 the goods and raw materials. In the 20th-century coal-fired power stations provided the reliable low-cost 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 to continue providing a reliable, low-cost supply. Sadly, in the Western world environmentalists are doing everything they can to shut down existing coal-fired stations, AND prevent new ones from being built. Instead, they promote expensive and heavily subsidized wind and solar power. In the rest of the world, hundreds of new coal-fired stations are being built to power expanding economies.
Developing countries desperately need to build new coal-fired stations to provide their poverty-stricken populations with a reliable low-cost supply of electricity. Yet, environmentalists have persuaded international development banks that coal is evil and persuaded them to squander vast sums on expensive solar power that keeps the home lights burning for a few hours every evening. What they need for commercial and industrial development is an abundant, continuous and low-cost supply. In many countries, coal is, by far, the best option.
Why demonize coal? It is based on a mistaken belief that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) is causing dangerous global warming. Yet there is no convincing empirical evidence that this is the case. The 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 (http://americafirstenergy.org/), on November 9 in Houston, Texas, University of Delaware climatology professor Dr. David Legates showed that the climate models on which the climate scare is based consistently predict far greater temperature rises than are observed in the real world.
Showing a plot of the output of 101 climate models, Legates said, “One hundred of those models overpredict current conditions [temperatures] by about a factor of two.”
He pointed out that climate models use ‘fiddle factors’ and are ‘tuned’ to give the results desired for political purposes: “This is not science!”
If it was true that man-made CO2 caused dangerous global warming, the rational response would be to look at ways of reducing it at the least possible cost. The prime option is nuclear power that is proven, safe and environmentally friendly. But environmental extremists claim that nuclear power is far too dangerous even though the only recorded deaths from nuclear power generation occurred at the obsolete and mal-operated Chernobyl station in the Ukraine. Fukushima did not, and will not, kill anyone from radiation.
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 that has massively reduced U.S. CO2 emissions. Yet, despite its excellent safety record, activists violently oppose fracking.
The benefit of increased CO2 in the atmosphere is clear as well. Dr. Craig Idso of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change told the America First Energy Conference, “the whole of the terrestrial biosphere is reaping incredible benefits from ~40% increase in atmospheric CO2 since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.“
He concluded that reducing emissions of CO2 will result in “reduced agricultural yields, higher food prices and growing food insecurity that will disproportionately burden the poor”. This could cause starvation, disease, and war.Activists ignore nuclear and natural gas-fired power generation, the two best options for reducing man-made CO
Activists ignore nuclear and natural gas-fired power generation, the two best options for reducing man-made CO2, and push wind and solar power that only exist because they are heavily subsidized. The huge expansion of subsidized wind and solar power has massively increased electricity costs because of the subsidies and the high cost of providing backup power when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. Massive blackouts in South Australia resulted from the wind power tripping off in a gale and so overloading the backup supply from Victoria that also tripped off. Subsidized wind power has also given South Australia the highest electricity prices in the country. If the war against coal continues, this scenario will become more and more frequent all over the world.
There is another downside from the war against coal. Emissions regulations that effectively block the construction of new efficient and clean coal-fired stations mean that the life of existing old and highly polluting stations must be extended. The war against coal is also a war against a cleaner environment. President Donald Trump is right to do everything in his power to end the war on coal!
Bryan Leyland is an Auckland, New Zealand-based consulting engineer and the founding secretary and energy issues adviser of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC). Tom Harris is the executive director of ICSC.
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