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Friday, April 25, 2008

Europeans Switching Back To Coal

At a time when the world's top climate experts agree that carbon emissions must be rapidly reduced to hold down global warming, a leading Italian electricity producer, Enel, is converting its massive power plant here from oil to coal, the dirtiest fuel on earth.

Over the next five years, Italy will increase its reliance on coal to 33 percent from 14 percent. Power generated by Enel from coal will rise to 50 percent. And Italy is not alone in its return to coal.

Driven by rising demand, record high oil and natural gas prices, concerns over energy security and an aversion to nuclear energy, European countries are slated to build about 50 coal-fired plants over the next five years, plants that will be in use for the next five decades.

The fast-expanding developing economies of India and China, where coal remains a major fuel source for more than two billion people, have long been regarded as one of the biggest challenges to reducing carbon emissions.

But the return now to coal even in eco-conscious Europe is sowing real alarm among environmentalists who warn that it is setting the world on a disastrous trajectory that will make controlling global warming impossible. They are aghast at the renaissance of coal, a fuel more commonly associated with a sooty Dickens novel and which was on its way out just a decade ago.

There have been protests here in Civitavecchia; at a new Vattenfall plant in Germany; at a plant in the Czech Republic; as well as at the Kingsnorth Power station in Kent, which is slated to become Britian's first new coal-fired plant in over a decade.

European power-station owners emphasize that they are making the new coal plants as clean as possible. But critics say that "clean coal" is a pipe dream, an oxymoron in terms of the carbon emissions that count most toward climate change. They call the building spree short-sighted.

"Building new coal-fired power plants is ill-conceived," said James Hansen, a leading climatologist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "Given our knowledge about what needs to be done to stabilize climate, this plan is like barging into a war without having a plan for how it should be conducted, even though information is available.

"We need a moratorium on coal now," he added, "with phase out of existing plants over the next two decades."

Enel, like many electricity companies, says it has little choice but to build coal plants to replace aging infrastructure, particularly in countries like Italy, which prohibit nuclear power. Fuel costs have risen 151 percent since 1996, and Italians pay the highest electricity costs in Europe.

(read more)
(Source: Neftegaz.ru)


Anonymous said...

It appears Rod's theory about the coal and steel union is playing out. Although some nations do appear to be leaning towards nuclear over coal or going all out like France.

I must admit I'm actually glad to see the EU building at least some serious baseload power though. The new technologies of the day require ever more electricity. The green/red plan of just not building anything would mean Europe having to turn down future technologies. Like the internet is estimated to have raised electrical demand by 11% so far. So if a nation had remained static in electrical output it would have had to pass on the internet.

Or in the next decade we'll see lots of new load for electricity. Like plug-in hybrids starting to coming on, and hundreds of new data centers as just two big ones. So the question to me is coal or nuclear? Every nuclear plant that gets built displaces untold amount of pollution from coal.


Rod Adams said...

Of course, Europeans could get by without building anywhere near as many coal plants if they would simply stop shutting down well operated and well maintained nuclear power plants.

Germany currently has a masochistic insistence on following through with an agreement arranged by Gerhart Schroder. I cannot understand why there is not more understanding that the agreement was a complete sellout of his country for personal profit - the man went to work for Gazprom almost immediately after leaving office. His job is to build a gas pipeline directly from Russia to Germany - a project that will be far more profitable if their is a steadily increasing demand for gas as the existing nuclear plants are forced to shut down.

See for example Gerhard Schroeder's Sellout from the Washington Post of December 13, 2005. Even that editorial, which recognizes that Schroeder choice of employment raised some questions did not make the connection between the future profitability of a gas pipeline and the shutdown of 11 existing nuclear power plants.

When will journalists understand that the law of supply and demand is not a passive law; it is something that commodity business leaders need to understand and manage. The unscrupulous and selfish ones often engage in activities that are more like "manipulation" than management.

Rod Adams said...

Darn: wish I would edit my last post.

I wrote "a project that will be far more profitable if their is a steadily increasing demand for gas" when I should have written "a project that will be far more profitable if there is a steadily increasing demand for gas".

I should know better than to depend on just a spell check. :-)

Alexandra Prokopenko said...

Rod, I wonder how much did Gazprom pay Schroeder for this gas pipeline project. Or at least there was some kind of agreement "behind the scene" that we do not know anything about. I used to work with Gazprom people for a while, that's their style of working.

Anonymous said...

Guys like Shroeder/green alliance give democracy a bad name, with their special interest policies.

Germany has 20,000 mw of nuclear capacity and they plan to phase out all of it, by 2022. Which just that supplied a third of Germany's power last year and is 20% of Germany's capacity. According to the world nuclear association site.

I better not be hearing either of those parties bringing up carbon emissions ever again.