By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
Last month, President Biden declared that all American coal plants would be shut down and replaced with wind and solar. Now the president is going after coal-fired electrical generation in other countries as well.
At the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit last week, Biden announced $8 billion in funding to South Africa to help the country replace its coal plants with renewable energy sources.
“The man is determined to bring down civilization, blaming the gas of life for global ruination. Insane and criminal to boot,” Patrick Moore, Greenpeace co-founder and director of the CO2 Coalition, said on Twitter.
The announcement of the funding for South Africa follows the passing of a deadline to appeal an August ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris of Montana, who concluded the environmental review of coal leasing under the Trump administration was inadequate.
The decision halts all coal leasing on federal lands until the Bureau of Land Management completes an environmental analysis.
Travis Deti, executive director for the Wyoming Mining Association, called the decision to let the ruling stand “disappointing” but also unsurprising.
“They made no secret that they intend to shut the industry down,” Deti said.
Global coal demand rose to a record high in 2022, surpassing 8 billion tons for the first time, according to the International Energy Administration. Almost all the increase was driven by China and India, both of which have been steadily increasing their coal use in the past two decades, but the U.S. and the European Union have seen increases in coal demand this year as well.
Driven by the Asian demand and the high price of coal, the world’s best performing stock for 2022 was PT Adaro Minerals Indonesia. The company, which operates Asian coal mines, saw its stock rise 1,600% this year.
As China and India freely utilize coal to power their growing industrial sectors, Deti said it makes the Biden war on coal even more frustrating.
“It’s very, very foolish. When you look at what we’re doing in Wyoming here, our coal was in demand, strong demand, across the country,” Deti said. “We need to be leasing more coal in this country to keep alive.”
Emily Arthun, CEO of the American Coal Council, called the decision to let the deadline for appeal pass “a tragedy.”
“There is definitely a need for coal, and with the amount of time it takes to permit these leases, not being able to move forward is detrimental to secure, reliable energy in the United States,” Arthun said.
The American Coal Council is a trade organization that represents coal from the mining process through the end users.
There are three electric grids in America: the Western Interconnect, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and the Eastern Interconnect. Analyses this year of the adequacy of electrical generation resources to meet demand on all three grids have found inadequacies, meaning during periods of high demand, such as during cold snaps or heat waves, blackouts are possible.
One of the causes cited has been a lack of dispatchable power as a result of the closure of coal-fired plants.
Most recently, an analysis by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, found parts of California, Ontario, and the Midwest face a “high risk” of blackouts from 2023 to 2027, during normal seasonal periods when demand is high.
Arthun said she’s happy there’s still a lot of coal-fired electrical generation in Wyoming.
“I’m sitting here looking out my window in Gillette, Wyoming. And it’s cold and snowy and I appreciate the energy policy of Wyoming,” Arthun said.