Thursday, December 23, 2021

Coal surge defies push for net-zero emissions

Global demand for coal is forecast to reach record levels next year, driven by huge growth in China and India, defying global efforts to tackle climate change.

The International Energy Agency is predicting at least three years of surging demand for coal, just weeks after world leaders ­failed to agree on a phase-out of the fossil fuel source at climate change talks in Glasgow.

“All evidence indicates a widening gap between political ambitions and targets on one side and the realities of the current ­energy system on the other,” the IEA said on Friday.

“This disconnect has two clear implications: climate targets are getting further out of reach, and energy security is at risk.”

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the IAE projections showed strong messages and targets alone would not address climate change. “Report after report points out the yawning gap between ambition and achievement,” he said. “That’s why a real plan to deliver on commitments is so important.”

Mr Taylor said technology was ­central to making net-zero ­emissions practically achievable for all countries.

China and India led the push against phasing out coal in Glasgow, opting to phase down coal use instead. Both countries are leading the surge in global coal consumption and continue to build new coal power stations.

“Global coal trends will be shaped largely by China and India, who account for two-thirds of global coal consumption, ­despite their efforts to increase renewables and other low-carbon energy sources,” the agency said.

While Asia is leading the way with higher coal consumption, the IEA says coal use has also jumped sharply in the US, UK and Europe as power generators switch out of high-priced gas.

The IEA report shows that a fall in demand for coal because of the pandemic was a temporary blip rather than a structural retreat. It underscores the gulf that exists between the targets being set to tackle climate change and the actions being taken.

Keisuke Sadamori, director of energy markets and security at the IEA, said: “The pledges to reach net-zero emissions made by many countries, including China and India, should have very strong implications for coal – but these are not yet visible in our near-term ­forecast, reflecting the major gap between ambitions and action.”

After falling in 2019 and 2020, global power generation from coal is expected to jump by 9 per cent in 2021 to a record high of 10,350 ­terawatt-hours.

Coal demand worldwide – including uses beyond power generation, such as cement and steel production – is forecast to grow by 6 per cent in 2021. That increase will not take it above the record levels it reached in 2013 and 2014.

But, depending on weather patterns and economic growth, the IEA said overall coal demand could reach a record high of 8.025 billion tonnes as soon as 2022 and then 8.031 billion tonnes by 2024.

Australia will retain its crown as the biggest global producer of metallurgical coal, used for steelmaking, with exports to lift 11 million tonnes by 2024 as producers continue to sidestep China’s ­import ban by selling supplies to rival buyers such as India and South Korea.

Consumption of thermal coal, used for power generation, will rise 7 per cent in 2021 although growth will remain constrained over the next three years amid ­environmental pressures and ­difficulty attracting financing to the sector.

The IEA says Australia’s ­thermal-coal industry is expected to shrink slowly as mine closures outpace capacity additions.

The agency expects Australia to produce 287Mt of thermal coal in 2024, about 31Mt less than in 2019, with lower demand for coal for domestic power generation contributing to the decline.

However, metallurgical coal production in Australia is expected to increase 11Mt by 2024.

The government’s commodity forecaster predicts thermal and metallurgical coal exports will contribute $57bn to export earnings in the 2022 financial year, up 46 per cent.

The IEA has previously said global coal use would have to plummet by 55 per cent by 2030 under a net-zero pathway to 2050 and declared no new coalmines or oil or gas fields should be opened.

Instead, demand for the polluting fossil fuel has lifted across the board in a blow for global ambitions to cut emissions.

IEA executive director Fatih Birol said: “Coal is the single ­largest source of global carbon emissions, and this year’s historically high level of coal-power generation is a worrying sign of how far off track the world is in its efforts to put emissions into decline towards net zero. Without strong and immediate actions by governments to tackle coal ­emissions – in a way that is fair, affordable and secure for those affected – we will have little chance, if any at all, of ­limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.”

China, where half of all global coal-fired electricity generation occurs, will see generation for power use lift by more than 9 per cent in 2021 while India is expected to end this year with growth of 12 per cent.

Even the EU and the US, both aggressively making plans to push coal out of their system, are set to record a 20 per cent gain in coal power generation this year although those levels will remain below 2019 numbers.


Fracking companies are threatening to sue the British Government over its ban on the practice amid complaints they have been left out of the country's energy revolution

The onshore shale gas industry has exchanged "pre-action correspondence" with Whitehall after it was barred from drilling following concern over earthquakes in 2019, before any gas was produced.

It raises the prospect that taxpayers could be forced to shell out compensation to an industry which came under sustained attack from campaigners over environmental concerns.

The potential legal action also raises questions for Cornwall's clean energy revival.

Fracking companies were riled after testing to extract heat, power and lithium from deep geothermal waters in the county last year triggered mini-earthquakes similar to those caused by fracking, but different regulations meant the work did not have to regularly pause as a result.

The billionaire industrialist Sir Jim Ratcliffe was among those who spent millions of pounds on fracking projects that had to be ditched following the ban. His company Ineos wrote off £63m in 2019.

It comes as the Government faces questions over whether its policies are deterring investment in energy that would help Britain secure independence from Russia and producers in the Middle East.

Charles McAllister, policy manager at UK Onshore Oil and Gas, the trade body, said: "We support the continued development of geothermal energy in the UK, however we would ask the Government to look again at lifting the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in light of its approach to the regulation of seismicity from deep geothermal projects.

"Whether our members will legally pursue compensation for the £500m they have invested in the Midlands and the North of England is a question for each company.

"We would of course prefer the Government to look at the science, apply regulation fairly and allow our members to proceed in producing a much-needed source of domestic natural gas."

Widely used around the world, fracking involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to release natural gas trapped between rocks.

Former prime minister David Cameron backed efforts to develop the first onshore fracking projects in the UK under a "dash for gas" bid to secure domestic energy supplies.

But tremors triggered during tests by leading player Cuadrilla in Lancashire led to the industry being placed under tight restrictions. It was then banned after the Oil and Gas Authority said it was not "possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking."

Cuadrilla, which said it is not part of any potential legal action or correspondence, wrote separately to the Government early this year highlighting that more "red-light" seismic events have been recorded from geothermal work in Cornwall than at its own wells.

Private company Geothermal Engineering has been testing water flows ahead of plans to develop geothermal power stations using hot water flowing up to 5km underground, from which lithium, used in electric car batteries, would also be extracted.

Producing energy from geothermal waters is a very different process to fracking as it involves pumping hot water that already flows naturally through rocks, rather than creating fractures.

Its seismic activity is generally regulated by local authorities based on the vibrations caused at the surface. Frackers, on the other hand, faced strict limits on earthquake magnitude regardless of what was felt at ground level.

Cuadrilla argues this difference is unfair, since both risk causing earthquakes even if small.

In its letter to the Government in February, the company said: "It is clear that resolving and lifting the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing should happen in parallel with defining and appropriately mitigating and regulating the risks of induced seismicity associated with comparable operations."

This week, the company added that its questions had not been satisfactorily resolved.

The push from frackers comes as soaring global gas prices trigger a debate about domestic energy supplies.


U.S. reverses Trump effort to quash California vehicle emissions rules

The Biden administration on Tuesday finalized a reversal of a rule issued under then-U.S. President Donald Trump that sought to pre-empt California's vehicle emissions regulations.

The Department of Transportation said it was issuing final rules rescinding the Trump action, which sought to bar the most populous state in the nation from setting vehicle rules that might conflict with the federal government's authority to set Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements.

The program, in place since 1975, sets vehicle fuel efficiency requirements.

"States can now actively pursue solutions to address the climate crisis and environmental challenges in their communities," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

About two dozen U.S. states sued to block a pair of Trump actions that sought to remove California from vehicle emissions regulations, while major automakers had backed the effort. The Republican president often clashed with California.

Soon after Democrat Joe Biden was elected president in November 2020, General Motors Co reversed course and opted to no longer back the Trump administration’s effort to bar California from setting its own emissions rules.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) separately has moved to reverse the Trump administration's 2019 decision to withdraw California's legal authority to set vehicle emissions rules and set zero-emission vehicle mandates.

The EPA in 2013 granted California a waiver for its tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions and zero-emission vehicle regulations.

A total of 14 states have adopted California's vehicle-emission rules and 11 have adopted its zero-emission vehicle mandates.

On Monday, the EPA finalized new vehicle emissions requirements through 2026 that reverse Trump's rollback of car pollution cuts and will speed a U.S. shift to more electric vehicles (EVs). The rule will reduce U.S. gasoline consumption by 15% through 2050, the EPA said, or more than 440 million barrels.


The Great Barrier Reef is thriving -- despite all the Greenie gloom

Peter Ridd:

The Australian Institute of Marine Science recently released its annual survey of coral on the Great Barrier Reef. It shows spectacularly good results. For all three major regions of the reef, once data uncertainties are considered, there has never been more coral since records began in the mid-1980s.

This despite three supposedly catastrophic and unprecedented hot water bleaching events in the past five years.

This great news about the reef poses only a minor problem for those science and management institutions that have convinced the world that the reef is on its last legs. They use three strategies: first, ignore the data and hope nobody points out the great news; second, discredit the good news with “fact checks”; and finally, contrive a spurious but apparently plausible reason that the good news is actually bad news.

Ignoring the good news was on display last month in the latest reef-doom story when the ABC, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian all quoted an eminent reef scientist who stated that only 2 per cent of the reef had not bleached in the past few decades.

The implication was that bleaching was unprecedented and had destroyed almost the entire reef. The fabulous coral statistics this year were not men­tioned by any of those articles.

Bleaching, cyclones and starfish plagues, which all occasionally kill parts of the reef, are akin to bushfires on land. They are completely natural and reset the ecosystem, which rapidly recovers, and are a necessary and import­ant feature of many Australian ecosystems. I could guess that roughly 2 per cent of western Queensland was not affected by a bushfire in the past half century. That would be a good thing, certainly not worthy of concern. Neither should it be for the reef.

To counter the latest good news about the reef, as reported in The Australian, the fact-check gods of Facebook also swung into action. They deemed that the coral has actually declined in the past decade. So what does the AIMS data, which was cited in the fact check, actually show about the change in coral since 2011?

For the northern region, the amount of coral this year is excellent and about the same today as in 2011; for the central region, it has roughly doubled; and for the southern region it has almost tripled. There is a significant uncertainty in the data because of the difficulty of measuring such a vast system, and the measurements are partly subjective in nature, but there is absolutely no doubt that the fact-checkers are extraordinarily wrong.

They appear to be incapable of reading simple graphs.

The final strategy is to turn good news into bad. AIMS and other reef science institutions such as James Cook University Coral Reef Centre dismiss the obviously fabulous coral statistics by arguing that it is only the fast-growing corals that have regrown.

But they ignore that it is the fast-growing corals, the delicate staghorn and plate corals, that were killed in the first place by cyclones, bleaching and starfish plagues. So of course it is the fast-growing corals that have recover­ed.

In 2012, when the reef hit record lows of coral after a couple of very destructive cyclones, these institutions did not say: “Don’t worry, it is only the fast-growing corals – they will be back.” Instead, AIMS published a paper stating that, without intervention, the reef would likely crash much further by 2022. This is yet another failed prediction of the imminent death of the reef in the past 50 years.

Back in the early ’70s, scientists were claiming that plagues of crown-of-thorns starfish, a native Australian species, not an introduced pest, would totally destroy the reef. The plagues came and went, and we now know from geological evidence that the plagues have occurred across millennia.

The amount of coral on the reef fluctuates dramatically with time. The one thing that remains the same are the dire predictions of the loss of the reef. The other thing that remains the same is the reality that the reef is one of the most pristine, best protected, and brilliant ecosystems on Earth.

Early next year Environment Minister Sussan Ley must prepare an updated report on why UNESCO should not declare the Great Barrier Reef as endangered. She will be up against activist scientists, environmental groups and public servants. And in the background the false gods of big tech turn a huge increase in the amount of coral into a decline. Institutions such as AIMS and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority that downplay the excellent condition of the reef will be a further problem.

After 50 years of doomsaying about the reef, and its stubborn refusal to die, how much longer will we have to wait before a government will audit the science institutions that have been scaring our children?




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Back in the 1960's when I was in elementary school we were told that the Great Barrier Reef was in trouble and could be gone in a few years. It's a refrain that has repeated every few years all my life with the only change being that the latest cause of the catastrophe being different.

One thing ALL the doomsayers never like to consider: Life is adaptive and resilient.