Archive | Coal

How Merkel’s Green Energy Policy Has Fueled Demand for Coal – by Brian Parkin and Weixin Zha (Bloomberg News – September 21, 2017)

Germany still gets 40 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants.

By 2030, the eastern German town of Poedelwitz will likely be razed to get at the rich veins of coal beneath its half-timbered houses. The reason: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s effort to steer Germany toward greener energy, which has unexpectedly meant booming demand for dirty coal.

While Merkel aims to wean the country from nuclear power and boost renewable energy, the shift has been slow—Germany’s 140-plus coal-fired plants last year supplied 40 percent of the country’s electricity—and Poedelwitz is flanked by open-pit lignite mines that feed a 2 gigawatt power plant a few miles away.

“This is unparalleled destruction of the environment,” says Jens Hausner, a farmer who has seen 17 of his 20 hectares consumed by digging equipment that looks like something out of a Mad Max movie. In a bit more than a decade, the hulking machines are expected to claw through the town’s 13th-century church and 40 or so remaining homes. Continue Reading →

Paris is dead. The global warming deniers have won – by Lawrence Solomon (Financial Post – September 22, 2017)

Paris came to New York this week, with leaders of countries signing the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement coming to the United Nations to chide, nudge or beseech Donald Trump in hopes he would reverse his decision to scrap the agreement.

The U.K.’s Theresa May, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau, among others, could have saved their breath. Since his pullout in June, Trump has repeatedly reaffirmed the wisdom of pulling out of the “bad deal” for the U.S. that was Paris. All the evidence that has since come down only bolsters his case.

Shortly after Trump announced the pullout, stats from the Global Coal Plant Tracker portal confirmed that coal is on a tear, with 1600 plants planned or under construction in 62 countries. The champion of this coal-building binge is China, which boasts 11 of the world’s 20 largest coal-plant developers, and which is building 700 of the 1600 new plants, many in foreign countries, including high-population countries such as Egypt and Pakistan that until now have burned little or no coal. Continue Reading →

Trump’s Breathtaking Hypocrisy on Coal Mining – by Vivian E. Thomson (Scientific American – September 22, 2017)

Pres. Donald Trump’s contempt for climate change science is well known. Now we see that his administration has put on hold a study of the connections between mountaintop coal mining and the health of nearby communities—research that was requested by West Virginia health authorities and is being conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. This action demonstrates the president’s disregard for the health of coal miners, their families and their friends.

I have a bit of experience in this area, as a former air pollution regulator. From 2002 to 2010, while a full-time faculty member at the University of Virginia, I was a member of the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board. Virginia is a longtime coal state, and the board confronted several controversial issues concerning coal-related air pollution. Among them, in 2009, was a case of dust pollution in southwestern Virginia.

In a country hollow in the Appalachian town of Roda, Va., coal trucks were driving along a narrow, steep-sided road leading to and from the area’s surface mines, which have scarred the landscape in every direction. Streams of trucks were raising clouds of dirt in their wakes, as coal dust in their beds and mud caked on the trucks flew into the air. Residents counted 10 trucks per hour, 20 hours a day, on weekdays. Continue Reading →

Glencore industrial dispute putting pressure on NSW coal supplies – by Mark Ludlow and Angela Macdonald-Smith (Australian Financial Review – September 20, 2017)

Protracted industrial action at 10 of Glencore’s NSW coal mines and a congested rail network are contributing to supply issues in Australia’s largest state, with fears it could affect the grid’s ability to keep the lights on this summer.

Amid growing concerns about coal-fired power generators being unable to secure enough coal supplies, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has vowed to maintain the industrial unrest at Glencore mines where negotiations have stalled over 10 separate enterprise agreements.

CFMEU national president Tony Maher said the industrial action organised by the unions at about eight mines across the Hunter Valley had had a “material” impact on Glencore’s operations and was affecting their ability to supply coal to customers. Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Coal’s rally isn’t all about China, it’s also quality, supply – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – September 18, 2017)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, Sept 18 (Reuters) – It is increasingly popular to write obituaries for coal, with analysts, market watchers, investors and utility bosses leaping on the bandwagon, declaiming that the days of the polluting fuel are numbered.

Certainly the long-term outlook for coal is becoming less certain as more countries commit to ending, or severely curtailing, use of the fuel. But while the doomsayers may eventually be proven correct, coal is enjoying a stellar year, particularly in Asia, the main demand centre.

The price of benchmark prices for thermal coal at Australia’s Newcastle Port slipped toward the end of last week, but still ended above $100 a tonne on Sept. 15. The contract rose 45 percent from the closing low of $71.30 a tonne on May 16 to a peak of $103.50 on Sept. 12, providing a bonanza for miners in Australia and Indonesia, the two largest exporters of thermal coal used in power stations. Continue Reading →

Coal processing given green light at Cape Breton’s Donkin mine (Halifax Chronicle Herald – September 12, 2017)

Kameron Collieries ULC, the owner of the Donkin Coal Mine in Cape Breton, has started operating its coal handling, preparation and processing plant or washplant.

Morien Resources Corp. of Dartmouth, a former part-owner of the Donkin project, put out a release Monday stating that it received notice from Kameron that its washplant was operational.

Morien owns a gross production royalty of two per cent on the first 500,000 tonnes of coal sales per quarter, excluding the initial 10,000 tonnes of coal produced and sold from Donkin and four per cent on any coal sales from quarterly tonnage above 500,000 tonnes. Continue Reading →

Coalition to allow government-backed loans to coalmines as banks hesitant – by Gareth Hutchens (The Guardian – September 11, 2017)

The Turnbull government has responded to the increasing unwillingness of Australia’s banks to fund major coal projects by overturning a ban on government-backed loans to domestic miners.

Steve Ciobo, the minister for trade, says protesters and activist groups have so discouraged Australia’s retail banks from financing “otherwise viable exporters in the coal sector” that the government must step in to fund a growing “market gap.”

He said government funding would now be provided via the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (Efic), and he has written to Efic asking it to change its mandate to broaden its lending criteria. Earlier this year, the financial regulator warned that climate change posed a material risk to the entire financial system, urging companies to start adapting. Continue Reading →

A Deadly Disease That Strikes Coal Miners Has Returned in Australia – by Perry Williams (Bloomberg News – September 8, 2017)

Claustrophobia never bothered Keith Stoddart as he sheared coal from the wall of a long, narrow and dusty tunnel hundreds of meters underground in northeastern Australia. Now, racked by a progressive, deadly lung disease, the 68-year-old gets panicked by pangs of shortness of breath.

His illness had been absent since the mid 1980s in Australia, the world’s top coal-exporting country. At least, that’s what records showed until May 2015, when mine-veterans like Stoddart began presenting in doctors’ rooms with an irreversible scourge from a bygone era: black lung disease.

Twenty-five cases of so-called coal workers’ pneumoconiosis have since been confirmed in Stoddart’s home state of Queensland, government records show. Many of them were missed by routine medical screening, and all of them point to weaknesses in modern mining technologies and dust controls that the government is now trying to fix. Continue Reading →

Coal push may be disaster insurance the grid doesn’t need – by Tim Loh and Mark Chediak(Washington Post – August 25, 2017)

‘The U.S. ought not to mortgage itself up to the hilt by making rash decisions that could very well harm the economy of the U.S. in 10 years’

If all hell breaks loose on the U.S. power grid — a terrorist blows up a key natural gas pipeline, say, in the midst of a frigid winter — how will Americans keep the lights on?

The answer is coal, according to a growing collection of the industry’s leaders and lobbyists. Their pitch conveys an image of a nation plunged into darkness as solar farms, wind turbines and plants fueled by gas fail to make up for the loss of coal-fired generation. Though it’s a view at least partly supported by a Department of Energy study released late Wednesday, the reality isn’t so dire.

Coal companies’ pleas for protection come as President Donald Trump vows to make good on campaign promises to support an industry hit by low-cost renewable energy and abundant gas from shale reservoirs. Energy Secretary Rick Perry called in April for his department to investigate whether rising supplies of wind and solar energy are threatening the grid’s reliability. Continue Reading →

Chinese Coal, Global Tremors – by David Fickling (Bloomberg News – August 29, 2017)

It’s tempting to view a merger between giant state-owned Chinese companies as a strictly internal affair. But make no mistake: The combination of the country’s largest coal miner with one of its top five power generators will have ramifications around the world.

To see why, it’s worth looking at how the integration with electricity producer China Guodian Corp. will change miner Shenhua Group Corp.Shenhua’s size and reach give it a crucial position in China’s internal power market.

It sold almost 400 million metric tons of coal last year, equivalent to about two-thirds of the amount used in power generation in the U.S. It owns a rail network that could reach from New York to Miami, stretching from the Mongolian border, through the Shaanxi coal belt, to Huanghua port on the Yellow Sea. Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Brave decision! Adani to start Australian coal mine on its own – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – August 29, 2017)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, Aug 29 (Reuters) – Adani Enterprises’ decision to start building Australia’s biggest coal mine would appear at face value to be a straightforward announcement that a major project is finally getting underway.

The Indian conglomerate said on Aug. 28 that it will start work in October on the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland state, initially using A$400 million ($317 million) of its own funds. There is no reason to doubt Adani intends to do exactly what it said it was planning to do by starting to build the $4 billion mine, with a goal to ship coal by 2020.

But there are several reasons to be sceptical about the timing of the announcement, and perhaps about its motivations. It would be a brave board of company directors that approved spending hundreds of millions of dollars when there is still considerable uncertainty over the future of the overall project. Continue Reading →

‘People are starving’: village life in Britain’s blighted coalfields – by Mark Townsend (The Guardian – August 27, 2017)

For years, the “numbered streets” in Horden have inspired dread among even the most hardened of local residents. Plagued by endemic crime and chronic poverty, some villagers are even afraid to venture onto them in daylight.

So, when a new community centre opened last month in the middle of the 13 numbered terraced streets, no one quite knew what to expect. Within days, a melancholy truth emerged: living conditions in Horden – a former mining village in County Durham and one of the most deprived places in Britain – were even worse than had been thought.

Paula Snowdon, who runs the Hub House, a converted end-of-terrace community centre on Seventh Street, describes malnourished families begging for food. “Most had received benefit sanctions and were basically starving when they came to us,” she said. Others turned up wanting little more than a chat. “We had individuals who hadn’t spoken to another person for days, sometimes weeks. Solitude is a major issue.” Continue Reading →

UK coal power peters out to lowest in 135 years – by Jillian Ambrose (The Telegraph – August 25, 2017)

The UK’s remaining coal-fired power plants made their lowest ever contribution to Britain’s electricity grid in 135 years last month, and could fall further in August.

The proportion of coal-fired generation in the power mix halved from last summer to an average of just 2pc of the total power generated over the month, analysts at Aurora Research have found.

The researchers added that this trend is continuing and could reach a lower average in August. The Oxford-based centre outlined the precipitous fall of coal-fired power in fresh data which shows it has fallen from 22pc in July 2015 to 4pc in the same month last year. In 2016 the high-carbon energy source made up 9pc of electricity generation on average, down heavily from an average of 23pc across 2015. Continue Reading →

Coal’s comeback – by Hoppy Kercheval (Metro News: Voice of West Virginia – August 25, 2017)


The anti-coal movement and its advocates in the previous administration in Washington tried their best to snuff out the industry and, in the process, ruin the livelihoods of miners and destroy communities. President Obama’s executive orders and his EPA’s regulatory stranglehold nearly brought coal to its knees.

When confronted with allegations of their “war on coal,” the response was that market conditions and competition from abundant, clean burning natural gas were actually the reasons. Clearly, the gas boom has been a huge factor, but a funny thing has happened since Obama left office and the regulatory boot has been lifted off of coal’s throat—it’s coming back.

The National Mining Association reports, “From the 2nd quarter of 2016 to the same period this year, coal production rose almost 17 percent.” The biggest jump has been in the production of steel-making metallurgical coal from Central Appalachia, where 57 mines have opened (or reopened) in the last fiscal year. Continue Reading →

Singing the praises of coal — the virtuous stone that liberated humanity – by Lawrence Solomon (Financial Post – August 25, 2017)

Among coal’s virtues is its small ecological footprint, in startling contrast to the clodhoppers that are renewable energy

Oil, gas, and hydroelectricity. Important though they’ve been to the economic life of mankind, none can hold a candle to coal, the most consequential energy source of all. This virtuous fuel — the Romans called it “the best stone in Britain” for its polished beauty when carved into jewelry — did more than power the Industrial Revolution, bringing unprecedented prosperity. Coal also brought enormous social and environmental blessings.

Centuries before the Industrial Revolution, during the reign of Elizabeth I, England was being rapidly deforested by the growing demand for wood fuel — the iron industry had an insatiable desire for charcoal, the navy warned the wood shortage in ship building posed a national security threat, London’s breweries alone required 20,000 wagon loads a year and the poor were especially hard hit, with the wood needed to cook and keep warm increasing in cost at rates far exceeding inflation.

Dozens of commissions confirmed the threat to the nation’s forests and even in rural areas the law called for those who stole wood to be “whipped till they bleed well.” Hardships for the poor were especially cruel because England was then in the grips of the Little Ice Age, which hurt the economy as well as increasing the need for home heating. Continue Reading →