As much as it’s reported that the world is going through a transition away from fossil fuels to wind and solar energy, the data doesn’t support it.
The International Energy Agency released its 2023 Coal Market Update on Thursday, which shows that global coal consumption in 2022 rose by 3.3% to a record 8.3 billion tons. While the use of coal in European countries and the United States has declined, those reductions are offset by increases in Asian countries, primarily India and China.
Thirty years ago, the U.S. and European share of coal consumption was 40%. By 2024, the IEA predicts it will fall to 8%.
Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, told Cowboy State Daily that the efforts to reduce emissions in the U.S. by shutting down coal plants will have no impact on global warming because Asian countries are moving full steam ahead with coal.
“The environment doesn't have glass walls surrounding the United States,” Bear said.
Lower Than Anticipated
As part of its war on fossil fuels, the Biden administration has targeted coal-fired electricity plants for closure in the next several years.
In their second quarter earnings calls this week, Peabody Energy and Arch Resources reported nominal declines in thermal coal sales, which is used for electrical generation.
Peabody Energy reported a drop of 3.1 million tons sold from the company’s Powder River Basin mines from the first quarter of the year.
Jim Grech, president and CEO, said the sales were “lower than anticipated.”
“Shipments were impacted by low costs or lower customer demand due to low natural gas pricing, high coal inventory levels and the June tornado event,” Grech said.
The company temporarily suspended operations at its North Antelope Rochelle mine after a tornado ripped through the facility June 23, $5 million in damage to buildings, equipment and parts inventory. The mine resumed operations two days later, and operations have largely returned to normal.
Arch reported a drop of 700,000 tons of coal sold from its thermal mines, which includes Black Thunder and Coal Creek in Wyoming, as well as West Elk in Colorado.
Arch Senior Vice President and COO John Drexler said the company has a strong position “even in a market that’s declining,” and that position remains strong through 2025.
Killing The Dream
The IEA report states that China would continue to account for more than half of the world’s coal use. The nation’s electricity sector alone consumes a third of that. Combined with India, the global share rises to 70%.
That means, according to the IEA, China and India consume twice as much as the rest of the world combined.
U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry traveled to China earlier this month in hopes of convincing the country to lower its emissions, but Kerry failed to reach any kind of agreement. Despite pleas from the West, China is continuing down a path of economic development based on fossil fuels.
Bear said the Biden administration’s drive to lower the United States’ emissions while China rebuffs any attempt to drive its down will put America at a disadvantage with the Asian country.
“The more that we put constraints on the United States emissions, the more difficult it is for us to compete with Asia, economically and militarily. And those are dangerous things,” Bear said.
Bear said that as the nation moves toward wind and solar energy, which drive up energy costs and degrade reliability on the nation’s grid, the more American businesses and industries will suffer.
“If the cost of energy is so high that you can't, as a young person, create something new and build a business, then you're killing the American dream,” he said.