The ABC’s Four Corners (again) joyfully announced the death of coal the other night wheeling out a bunch of anti-coal advocates to agree with one another. It seems that coal might be a little like Mark Twain- great news for mining regions and for Australia generally. And of course the campaigners always show their total ignorance of the subject in the fact that coal is essential to steel making- so there is coal even in wind turbines!
‘‘The end of coal’’ was the tagline for a Four Corners’ “analysis” of the coal sector [on Monday]. It was Episode 14 of Series 3 of the Four Corners’ critique of the mining industry….
Facts were in short supply, wishful thinking was not. A trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, which funds activist groups and co-funded the development of an Australian anti-coal strategy in 2011, was wheeled out as an objective observer…
First, it is claimed that coal is a dying energy source and its use is being phased out. Not so. According to the BP Review, over the decade to the end of 2014, coal use grew by 968 million tonnes of oil equivalent. That is 4 times faster than renewables, 2.8 times faster than oil and 50 per cent faster than gas. That’s hardly justification for a requiem.
Second, investors are not walking away from coal… One of the anti-coal movement’s own groups, Bankwatch, has complained that global financing for coal mining rose to $US66 billion in 2014, up from $US55bn in 2013 and a 360 per cent increase from 2005.
The third claim is that renewable energy is capable of replacing fossil fuels, including coal. Not likely. In 2014, if the world had relied on renewable energy like wind, solar and biomass for primary energy, then the world would have had just 9 days of heat, light and artificial horsepower….
The campaigners also claim that major consuming nations are turning away from coal. But the International Energy Agency predicts that China will add 450 gigawatts of coal fired power over the next 25 years. That’s 40 per cent larger than the entire US coal fleet….
Energy starved India is also expanding its coal use and is expected to become the world’s largest coal importer in the next decade…
In forecasting the end of coal, the campaign narrative also skips lightly around the fact that coal is used in the production of 70 per cent of the production of the world’s steel. Given that there is 225 tonnes of coal in every offshore wind turbine, it is hard to see how coal is doomed in a world with strong growth in renewable energy.