Booming U.S. coal exports forebode a coal-fired 21st century
If you thought America didn't make anything anymore, you're wrong! We make disastrous, planet-killing levels of climate change. It's all a consequence of the record 100 million tons of coal we're going to export all over the world this year, much of it to Asia.
Even as one out of 10 gigawatts of U.S. coal-fired power is slated to shut down in the next decade (35 gigawatts), seven times as much coal-fired power is under construction worldwide (249 gigawatts). Since the carbon balance sheet is global, it's fair to say these numbers augur a global failure to control the worst source of greenhouse gasses.
Arch Coal President John Eaves says that 249 gigawatts of new coal power will require an increase in supply of 800 million tons of coal. Indonesia and Australia are the top two exporters of coal — kind of ironic given their unique vulnerabilities to climate change — but that could change if U.S. coal barons figure out how to open up more ports and rail capacity in the U.S. The stuff is already flowing out many Gulf Coast ports, as well as across the Great Lakes and even through Long Beach, Calif.
"Coal is expected to fuel more incremental generation over the next decade than gas, oil, nuclear, hydro, geothermal and solar combined," Greg Boyce, CEO of Peabody Energy, told investors.
"It's something unprecedented in human history, arguably, 3 billion people going through an industrial revolution at the same time," Arch's Slone said.
Also unprecedented: 3 billion of the world's most vulnerable people facing coal-driven climate catastrophe on a scale few can comprehend.