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Shared Humanity

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Re: Coal
« Reply #50 on: June 14, 2013, 07:10:50 PM »
As long as the world's requirements for energy climb, we simply will not see any substantial reductions in fossil fuel generation of that energy. As cheaper sources of oil become scarce, this increasing demand will make more expensive choices viable (shale oil, tar sands, fracking). The only real solution to reducing fossil fuel consumption is conservation. We need to dramatically reduce the amount of energy required to support civilization. Dramatic reductions in energy requirements will make expensive sources of fossil fuels no longer economically viable.

How do we start. We need to look at both energy generation and energy use. If we focus only on generation, we are doomed. Look at where fossil fuels are consumed and prioritize areas where quick reductions can be made.

Here is a picture in the U.S. Every country will look different and result in different priorities.

As consumers, we must also consider uses of fossil fuels that go beyond simple energy generation. A large amount of oil is used to create plastics and fibers used for clothes. These nearly indestructible materials are also a source of pollution. I do not buy food packaged in plastics, glass only. I only buy natural fiber clothes. I sold my car several years ago. I have a membership in an organization called "IGO" which has cars available for use that are all hybrids. I use these when I absolutely need a car.

Each of us need to make decisions which contribute to conservation.


TerryM

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Re: Coal
« Reply #51 on: June 16, 2013, 12:58:19 AM »
Coal remains the world's fastest growing fossil fuel


Coal remained the world's fastest-growing fossil fuel in 2012, despite the rate of consumption slipping below the 10-year average of 4.4% during the year, according to the BP 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy released Wednesday.
http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/Coal/26015975


If we can't stop the increased use of coal in a world awash in cheap CH4, what will happen when the newly fracked gas wells start to fail?


We watch as CO2 hits 400 ppm, note that the rate of accumulation is increasing, and no one in power offers more than platitudes. At some point someone somewhere has to pass legislation against mining, transporting and burning coal.


Terry
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JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #52 on: June 19, 2013, 10:03:17 PM »
US coal exports set monthly record at 13.6 million short tons.

http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=11751
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #53 on: July 12, 2013, 05:10:56 PM »
US coal consumption rises 4% in 2013.  Expected to rise further into 2014.

Coal's share of total domestic power generation in the first four months of 2013 averaged 39.5%, compared with 35.4% during the same period last year


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-coal-electricity-20130711,0,1786862.story
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Anne

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Re: Coal
« Reply #54 on: July 22, 2013, 06:15:54 PM »
This is the official story about UK carbon emissions:
The 2008 Climate Change Act established the world’s first legally binding climate change target. We aim to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% (from the 1990 baseline) by 2050.
The official policy at the link has many fine words.

Meanwhile, UK’s power stations are ageing and the risk of power cuts has trebled. And coal has just become a lot cheaper. So
the Government intends to allow coal stations to bid for three-year capacity payment contracts that they could use to upgrade existing facilities, which will allow them to continue operating beyond 2020, when EU air pollution and acid rain rules come into effect. Analysis by Greenpeace suggests that suppliers could be in line to expect £240m of subsidies per coal station over the three years – even though the improvement would have no effect on the amount of CO2 the plants emit.
Under the Energy Bill, 12 of Britain’s existing 18 coal power stations that could stay open will be exempt from the Government’s emissions performance standard (EPS) that sets limits on CO2 emissions for all new power generation. While the EPS will stop new coal power stations being built without carbon capture and storage, it will not apply to existing plants. That exemption goes against a pledge made by David Cameron in opposition.
The Independent 22 July 2013


In other news, the UK government has announced a 50% tax break for fracking firms.
Britain’s fledgling shale gas industry will get a major boost today as George Osborne cuts taxes on fracking profits to less than half the amount paid by conventional oil and gas producers.
Under the Chancellor’s regime, shale gas producers will pay just 30 per cent tax on their profits, compared to the 62 per cent that the oil and gas industry has traditionally paid.
The tax regime is designed to attract investment into what Mr Osborne hopes will be a major new industry for Britain and puts shale gas on a par with a handful of conventional oil and gas fields – such as deepwater sites – which are viewed as particularly difficult and high-risk to develop.
Mr Osborne said: “Shale gas is a resource with huge potential to broaden the UK’s energy mix. We want to create the right conditions for industry to explore and unlock the potential in a way that allows communities to share in the benefits.”
He will reiterate plans to force shale gas companies to give local communities at least £100,000 per well in the hope of persuading them to allow fracking to proceed near their homes.
“This new tax regime, which I want to make the most generous for shale in the world, will contribute to that. I want Britain to be a leader of the shale gas revolution – because it has the potential to create thousands of jobs and keep energy bills low for millions of people,” he added.
The Independent 19 July 2013

It just goes on.

TerryM

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Re: Coal
« Reply #55 on: July 22, 2013, 08:34:59 PM »
Anne
I don't know why people are so opposed to fracking. If the power goes out you'll be able to light the faucets for light & heat.


Terry

Anne

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Re: Coal
« Reply #56 on: July 22, 2013, 08:39:43 PM »
Thanks for the laugh, Terry.

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best

And always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the light side of life

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #57 on: August 02, 2013, 07:38:12 PM »
Germany and coal consumption.  Very ugly numbers!

Readers will recall that back in 2011 Germany, in reaction to the big nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan, decided to shutter all 17 of its nuclear plants.  A decision hailed by environmentalists and largely opposed by prominent climate scientists who feared that loss of nuclear power would make it much harder to lower carbon emissions.

Turns out Germany is opening a coal plant for every nuclear plant shut down even though they are rapidly adding to their alternative energy power generation capabilities. 
917 million tons of coal used in 2011
931 million tons of coal used in 2012
still rising in 2013
Greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.5% in 2012 and will be higher in 2013.
coal imports were up 25% in the 1st quarter of the year
Only about 50% of the nuclear plants have been closed so far!

Six coal plants with a combined capacity of 4,536 megawatts are due to start generating in Germany this year, according to data from the Bundesnetzagentur grid regulator. That compares with shutdowns of four plants with as much as 623 megawatts this year.

“Coal plants are the only plants that can be operated at profit at the moment, and that’s why their share is rising and rising,” Kemfert said June 27 by e-mail.


the share of electricity generated from coal rose from 43 percent in 2010 to 52 percent in the first half of this year



The 'her' below is Chancellor Merkel.

To fill the gap, her government wants utilities to build 10,000 megawatts of modern gas- and coal-fired generators this decade, replacing older plants. She also unleashed a boom in wind and solar power construction.

So far, mainly coal plants have gotten the go-ahead. Gas plants, which run mostly in the middle of the day when demand peaks, are losing money as the surging number of wind and solar plants flood the grid with cheap power.


Operators of coal-fired plants will make a profit of 8.85 euros a megawatt-hours if they run their units next month, based on current coal, power and emission prices for the period. Gas-fired plants post a loss of 18.74 euros a megawatt-hour, according to a calculation by Bloomberg.

Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said on June 10.

Coal is favored because the cost of pollution is so low. Certificates to offset a ton of CO2 on the European Union emissions control market have averaged $4.32 so far this year compared with $17.18 in 2008.


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-28/merkel-s-green-shift-backfires-as-german-pollution-jumps.html

http://www.salon.com/2013/07/30/germanys_clean_energy_plan_backfired/
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #58 on: August 18, 2013, 08:13:56 PM »
Here is a story about locals fighting to stop, delay or raise the price of the land needed (depending on their personal interest) to build a 2GW 4 billion dollar coal plant in Indonesia.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Money and politics.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/07/20/national/local-opposition-stalls-4-billion-japanese-coal-power-plant-project-in-indonesia/#.UhEMI0nn9y1
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Sigmetnow

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Re: Coal
« Reply #59 on: August 24, 2013, 12:58:38 AM »
The Nevada governor recently signed a bill to close the Moapa Paiutes deadly coal plant by 2017.  The clean-up required is extensive. But the reservation will soon be home to the first large-scale solar project on tribal land in the US, and the tribe has signed a contract to sell the electricity -- to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/08/23/2515961/replacing-coal-solar-tribal-land/
People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

GeoffBeacon

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Re: Coal
« Reply #60 on: August 24, 2013, 08:38:46 AM »
What is the carbon price that would make coal uneconomic?

Can we show how the revenue from a carbon tax could be spent to persuade the doubters?

e.g.:

        Cut other taxes

        Hand the revenue to the public

        Create jobs

        Invest in renewables

Others?

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Sigmetnow

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Re: Coal
« Reply #61 on: August 24, 2013, 04:57:41 PM »
Geoff,
Coal is starting to become uneconomic....

A recent major coal lease sale by the US BLM garnered no bids (there's an update at the end of the article).  The expected bidder explained:

“…in light of current market conditions and the uncertainty caused by the current political and regulatory environment towards coal and coal-powered generation and ultimately decided it was prudent not to bid at this time …”

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/08/21/2499291/obama-major-coal-sales/


And the World Bank plans to limit financing of coal-fired power plants:

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/314772/economy/finance/world-bank-plans-to-limit-financing-of-coal-fired-power-plants
People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

ghoti

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Re: Coal
« Reply #62 on: August 27, 2013, 07:49:08 PM »
And this from Climate Crocks repeating similar statements about coal starting to cost too much to mine.

http://climatecrocks.com/2013/08/27/coal-fading-to-black/

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #63 on: August 27, 2013, 08:33:12 PM »
A cautionary note on the last couple of posts.

There have been a number of articles along this line lately and they do have a point.  But that point may be dulled a bit by a strong bias (a justified bias) against coal.

If you dig into the numbers a bit there is another aspect to the story.   If you peruse this link from an organization which advocates for clean energy

http://cleanenergyaction.org/u-s-delivered-coal-costs-2004-2011/

You will see that it depends on what kind of coal production you are talking about and where it is occurring.  The operations in Wyoming, Montana and such are producing coal at a much lower cost than the mining which takes place east of the Mississippi.

Giant open pit mines are probably not hurting that all that bad.  The market price for coal is down and that has reduced demand.  In such a circumstance it does not make sense to invest a couple of hundred million in opening up a new mine in Wyo.  As the recent surge in natural gas supplies in the US recedes over the next few years the price an operator can get for coal will rise (unless we work regulations to stop that from happening) as the price for natural gas rises. 

If this situation can be maintained for long enough it might be possible to drive a lot of the mines east of the Mississippi out of business.  Though that will be a big fight for a lot of reasons.   
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Sigmetnow

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Re: Coal
« Reply #64 on: August 28, 2013, 02:12:41 AM »
JimD,
Yes, Coal is still Big, and not going away any time soon.  But even small steps in the right direction are great news, I should say. 

In a June settlement regarding selenium pollution in Tennessee (US), National Coal LLC announced that it would stop all surface mining business.
National Coal is the second firm to exit the mountaintop removal mining business. National Coal’s decision was preceded, last November, by Patriot coal which settled with the Sierra Club and its allies over Clean Water Act mining pollution violations in West Virginia.

https://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2013/06/national-coal-exit-surface-mining-business


And public campaigns are having a not insignificant effect:
As Nation environment correspondent Mark Hertsgaard points out, during Obama’s first term a vibrant organizing effort successfully blocked construction of more than one hundred new coal-fired power plants, “thereby imposing a de facto moratorium on new coal in the United States.” Their actions, he argues, “limited future U.S. greenhouse gas emissions almost as much as the cap-and-trade bill would have done.”

http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/climate-of-change-what-does-an-inside-outside-strategy-mean
People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

Sigmetnow

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Re: Coal
« Reply #65 on: August 28, 2013, 05:02:14 PM »
What to do when the energy from new coal plant you contracted with is more expensive than other current options?

Peabody Energy Corp had an idea to build a power plant near a big coal mine it owned in southern Illinois.  It sold 95% of the project to eight utility consortiums in multiple states.  Then came the 2008 Depression, construction delays, and the rise of fracking. As a result, many towns today are contracted to pay for power that is more expensive than electricity available on the open market.

July 3:
http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/03/19254933-small-towns-take-their-lumps-after-betting-big-on-coal-energy-plant?lite
Aug 28:
http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/28/20218859-missouri-town-escapes-crushing-electricity-contract-tied-to-coal-fired-plant?lite
People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #66 on: August 29, 2013, 12:55:07 AM »
Here is an  interesting article about future natural gas supplies and costs in the US.  I have seen a number of articles articulating this process over the last year or so.  It would indicate that the cost differential between coal and natural gas will eventually swing back towards coal and make coal more price competitive again.  Market driven situation.  Shale gas play's are not profitable from the production side, but rather from the drawing in investors with cash side.  Pump your discovery's, run your share price up and sell your stock.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/08/has-the-shale-bubble-already-burst.html

“The shale gas phenomenon has been funded mostly by debt and equity offerings. At this point, further debt and share dilution are less feasible for many companies”
 


Many US shale companies that have been beating the drums of shale “revolution” are now facing oil and gas well depletion. In February 2013 the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) warned that “diminishing returns to scale and the depletion of high productivity sweet spots are expected to eventually slow the rate of growth in tight oil production”.


“The cheap price bubble in the US will burst within two-to-four years,” believes David Hughes, a geoscientist and former team leader on unconventional gas for the Canadian Potential Gas Committee. “At a high enough price, the supply bubble will burst perhaps 10-to-15 years later, when drilling locations become sparse.”
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Sigmetnow

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Re: Coal
« Reply #67 on: September 20, 2013, 05:27:50 PM »
I like what I'm seeing -- coal becoming less and less favorable.

The EPA took a step today towards getting the US weaned off coal.
http://www.nbcnews.com/business/u-s-epa-sets-first-ever-curbs-power-plant-pollution-4B11211140

A recent government auction for a coal lease in Wyoming garnered only one bid -- the lowest top bid in 15 years -- and so low it was rejected.
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/09/19/2653151/coal-lease-lowest-bid/

Even the TVA (historically and heavily dependent on Appalachian Mountain coal) is proposing scrapping its oldest and dirtiest coal plants and finishing its planned nuclear plants -- all while avoiding a scheduled rate increase and cutting industrial rates by 30%.
http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/sep/13/investors-challenge-tva-budget-plan/

In Australia, a $7 billion coal mine was cancelled due to low global demand.
http://tcktcktck.org/2013/09/7-billion-australian-coal-mine-canceled-citing-low-demand/57156

While China is banning new coal power plants in three major industrial regions:
http://tcktcktck.org/2013/09/china-announces-ban-new-coal-power-three-areas/56933

China will also try to reduce pollution through public shaming of its dirtiest cities.
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/09/19/2647481/china-fight-pollution-public-shaming/
People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #68 on: September 21, 2013, 05:34:55 PM »
Sigmetnow

Some good news if it pans out that way, but there is also not so good news.  Sort of a mixed bag as we say here.

A 10 Sep report by the EIA states that US consumption is rising.

Consumption will increase by 5.8pc from 2012 to 942mn short tons (854.5mn metric tonnes). In 2014, consumption is expected to grow more moderately, at a rate of 1.8pc to 959mn st, it said.


Though US exports were down.  Another interesting figure was that inventories of coal at US power plants were down significantly.  This likely means that they will have to rebuild inventories soon as we know they are not turning the plants off.  This need to rebuild might put some upward pressure on bulk coal prices.  Thus increasing demand for natural gas and raising the price of it as well.

http://www.argusmedia.com/News/Article?id=864280

Meanwhile India is looking in Australia, Indonesia and Columbia with the interest in buying additional coal reserves.

A 2012 International Energy Agency report estimated that nearly 25 percent of India's population still has [no access] to electricity, while electrified areas suffer from rolling electricity blackouts, both issues which New Delhi is anxious to resolve.


India, of course, has limited wealth to import coal but then again coal is cheap so it will be interesting to see what happens.

http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2013/08/22/Coal-India-Ltd-scouts-for-mines-in-Australia-Indonesia-and-Colombia/UPI-14501377213751/

Though the greatest rise in coal consumption has been China

The global increase in coal consumption rests squarely with China. While the world as a whole saw an increase in coal consumption last year of 101.3 Mtoe, China’s increase alone was 112.5 Mtoe. India added another 27.7 Mtoe....


Even if China cuts growth by 50% that still means a significant rise in overall consumption.  And, interestingly, Europe is not exactly doing well in some respects either.

Interestingly, most of the countries that saw the sharpest percentage increases in coal consumption from 2011 to 2012 were in Europe. Portugal led all countries with a 31.4% increase in coal consumption in 2012, followed by Chile (25.1% increase), Spain (24.2% increase), the UK (24.0% increase), New Zealand (21.3% increase), and France (20.1% increase). Many of the countries experiencing sharp growth in their percentage of coal consumption are countries heavily associated with pushes to renewable energy, or that have a strong nuclear power portfolio (France).


Other interesting numbers.

But global coal consumption has increased by 16.6% over the past five years, because those increasing their coal consumption tend to use a lot of coal. The top percentage increases over the past five years were Argentina (157% increase, but still a small user overall), Chile (76.4% increase), Columbia (70.1% increase), Malaysia (62.0% increase), and Bangladesh (58.3% increase). Of the heavy users of coal, China saw their consumption climb by 41.9% while India’s was right behind them with a 41.8% increase.


In a struggling economic environment many countries have little choice but to burn the cheapest (in a short-term sense) fuel they can find.  Currently that choice is limited to coal and natural gas.  It is not likely that gas prices can stay low for the medium-term and it is certain that coal will remain cheap (there is just so much of it) and this will drive the short-term economic conditions.

http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/robert-rapier/king-coal-gets-fatter-while-the-us-goes-on-a-diet

Like you, I hope that we are starting to see the slow final turn away from coal consumption.  But the evidence is not convincing at this point.  It still seems likely that what we are seeing is just the normal ups and downs of supply/demand forces impacting price and consumption.  We will have cause to claim the corner was turned when we have seen 2 consecutive years of declining global coal consumption.   

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #69 on: September 21, 2013, 05:41:43 PM »
This is what we have to see change.  We are still following this curve.


We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Sigmetnow

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Re: Coal
« Reply #70 on: September 22, 2013, 06:12:21 PM »
Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggests coal’s days are numbered -- although that number could be quite large....  A good summary of anti-coal factors, from August.

http://about.bnef.com/blog/caldecott-will-old-king-coal-continue-to-be-a-merry-old-soul/
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JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #71 on: September 22, 2013, 09:33:03 PM »
Sigmetnow

Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggests coal’s days are numbered -- although that number could be quite large....  A good summary of anti-coal factors, from August.

If I had read your link before I wrote my last two posts I would have used it to make my point.  The title is somewhat misleading as the text leads one to the conclusion that the problem is not under control and will continue to get worse for some time.

The part of your quote I highlighted is my point.  If we are reaching the point that the curve above will flatten and then fall, that fall is a long ways away still.  Coal is not dead and maybe only starting to get sick.  Dying is some time away yet.  Though some of the trends affecting coal are heading in the right direction the pace of change is very slow yet.  But we do not have time on our side in this issue and I think when folks read headlines they get the wrong impression of how dire the situation is.

From your article (highlights mine):

While the confluence of factors is significant, particularly in Europe and the US, the sheer scale of legacy coal assets globally combined with growing power needs in Asia, will prevent coal’s quick exit from the world stage. The Global Renewable Energy Market Outlook (GREMO) we have developed at Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that under a range of scenarios coal will only account for 10-12% of total power capacity additions between now and 2030. But despite this collapse in new capacity additions, its share of global installed generation capacity will only fall from 36% in 2013 to 21-23% in 2030.

This is almost entirely down to China. The country will add 88GW of new power plants annually from now until 2030 – the equivalent of building the UK’s total generating capacity every year. While China’s power capacity will more than double by 2030 and renewables will account for more than half of new plants, coal will still continue to grow rapidly until 2022. We estimate that China will add on average 38GW per year of new coal capacity – equal to three large coal plants every month. So despite a clear shift to cleaner sources of energy in China, carbon emissions and local environmental problems resulting from coal will probably continue to worsen in the next 10-15 years. ...
....Our sense is that Old King Coal will be around for longer than many might like.....

So coal plants are expected to be about 10-12% of new capacity out to 2030.  China is expected to add 38GW of new coal plants each year or 3 a MONTH.  Carbon emissions from coal are expected to continue to rise for another 10-15 years!

And then we have the economic factors which can result in us bucking the trends described in the article.  Foremost is that existing plants in many places in the world are not likely to be shut down when coal is so cheap.  Regulations might force that in places like Europe and the US (best make no assumptions though as the political fights on this still have to be fought), but in the less developed world money talks even more than it does in the US.  They will not be able to afford to shut plants unless we provide the investment for them to do so on a giant scale (who is going to pay for that?).

Another factor is that many of the coal facilities in the world are not permitted by the governments (they just ignore that issue) or are in private hands.  In China many coal plants were built by companies to provide power to the factories which make our goodies.  They had no permission at all to do this but they did it anyway.  There are hundreds of non-utility power plants in China today.  There will be a tendency to do this kind of thing in other places as long as power is unreliable and coal is cheap.

Natural gas prices are likely to rise significantly over the next few years.  The cost advantage natural gas has over coal in the US will diminish significantly and this will impact the drop in coal consumption we have been seeing in the US the last few years.  I do not expect that trend to continue unless the fights over EPA regulations are won by the Administration.  In any case the implementation of those regulations will have to go through the courts and that just takes a lot of time (it is certain that they will be fought).

Restricting investment in new coal infrastructure will help slow growth, but it could also increase the likelihood of old inefficient coal plants being kept in service longer.  Disinvestment might have some effect in the industrial countries but probably not much elsewhere.

The core of the problem is that a large percentage of the world does not have enough power so we need to add capacity.  Plus we keep having a big pile of unneeded babies and are increasing the population.  More power needed.  All most all renewables being added are increasing capacity not replacing bad power options.  A very ugly situation.

I am not arguing FOR coal use as I share your desire to eliminate it.  I just see what appears to be a very difficult problem to solve taking a long time to work out.  And like I said above. Time ran out awhile back.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #72 on: September 25, 2013, 05:42:34 PM »
An interesting article on how one large coal company in the US is using hedging techniques to remain profitable.  This is a sure sign that they are hurting.  On the other hand they made a lot of money doing the hedging.  the article also discusses some of the financial mechanism of coal exports which shed a light on why some companies still export even when they are losing money.  Financials are still deteriorating and if they stay bad for a couple more quarters the new export terminals on the west coast might not happen

http://daily.sightline.org/2013/09/23/the-hidden-export-bombshell-in-cloud-peaks-financials/#comments
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: Coal
« Reply #73 on: September 25, 2013, 11:17:21 PM »
Some more info from the Bloomberg white paper referred to above just popped up on another blog and while I was reading what they said I noticed another point to make about the projections on Chinese coal consumption in 2030.

Their numbers indicate in China today coal accounts for 67% of the 1124 GW of production or 753 GW from coal.

In 2030 they project coal will be 44% (middle scenario) of 2707 GW of production or 1191 GW from coal.  Which is 'more' than their entire current production from all sources.

The spin is that this percentage reduction is a great improvement and that China is getting green.  But really this is a disaster as it means their overall coal consumption will rise by 58%!




bnef.com/WhitePapers/download/358

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: Coal
« Reply #74 on: October 05, 2013, 07:07:54 PM »
It is noted that the complexities of costs are a big driver in coal consumption.  Currently many coal produces are not operating at a profit or their costs are requiring pricing which reduces demand as energy users switch to lesser costs fuels like natural gas.  This situation, of course, results in cost cutting by coal produces to recover profits and become more competitive with natural gas.  Rising natural gas prices over time (especially in the US) are likely and this will cause coal to become more competitive again.  So how do the coal companies cut costs on the other side of the equation?  Well here is one way.

Note this information is about an iron ore mine.  But my point is that eliminating high paid jobs via automation is a sure way to lower costs.  It is after all one of the prime ways the US is increasing productivity.
Train drivers working for Australian miner Rio Tinto make as much as A$240K (US$224K) per year to haul ore. According to BLS data, that is as much as surgeons in the US, and more than the $151K average of New York State lawyers.


$224K per year!!!  Full disclosure.  I worked on the Burlington Northern railroad for a time when I was younger and I can assure you that this is very simple work and could easily be automated and am surprised a bit that it has taken so long. Though when I worked the typical train had 4 workers on it and the norm is now 2.  But zero makes perfect sense with modern technology.

Rio, which last year approved spending of $7.2 billion to expand the iron ore operations, is aiming to have the world’s first, fully automated, long-distance and heavy-haul rail system operating in 2015. Its automated rail will have 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) of track, 10,000 wagons and individual train sets 2.3 kilometers long, according to Credit Suisse Group AG. The company is spending $518 million on the program that was announced last year.


Rio also plans to automate about 40 percent of its Pilbara truck fleet by 2016. The goal is to reduce costs to $15.60 a ton by 2020, from $23.10 a ton in the first half of this year, Paul Young, a Sydney-based analyst with Deutsche Bank said in a report after touring operations last month, citing Rio data. Automation is set to help shave $1.90 a ton off costs and boost output by 20 million tons, or 5 percent, he said.


There is nothing about hauling coal that is functionally different than iron ore.  This type of technology will proliferate.  We have large farm tractors today which need no human driver and setting up a system for very large mine trucks and trains is even simpler to do due to the controlled environments. 

I expect this type of technology to have an impact over the next 10 years or so. 

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-02/rio-replacing-train-drivers-paid-like-u-s-surgeons.html
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: Coal
« Reply #75 on: October 05, 2013, 07:32:12 PM »
Jim
They might want to check with MM&A before investing too much much on automated rail lines.[size=78%]


Terry[/size]

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Re: Coal
« Reply #76 on: October 06, 2013, 04:35:54 PM »
Terry

Your link went missing.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: Coal
« Reply #77 on: October 07, 2013, 02:22:07 AM »
It is noted that the complexities of costs are a big driver in coal consumption.  Currently many coal produces are not operating at a profit or their costs are requiring pricing which reduces demand as energy users switch to lesser costs fuels like natural gas.  This situation, of course, results in cost cutting by coal produces to recover profits and become more competitive with natural gas.  Rising natural gas prices over time (especially in the US) are likely and this will cause coal to become more competitive again.  So how do the coal companies cut costs on the other side of the equation?  Well here is one way.

Note this information is about an iron ore mine.  But my point is that eliminating high paid jobs via automation is a sure way to lower costs.  It is after all one of the prime ways the US is increasing productivity.
Train drivers working for Australian miner Rio Tinto make as much as A$240K (US$224K) per year to haul ore. According to BLS data, that is as much as surgeons in the US, and more than the $151K average of New York State lawyers.


$224K per year!!!  Full disclosure.  I worked on the Burlington Northern railroad for a time when I was younger and I can assure you that this is very simple work and could easily be automated and am surprised a bit that it has taken so long. Though when I worked the typical train had 4 workers on it and the norm is now 2.  But zero makes perfect sense with modern technology.

Rio, which last year approved spending of $7.2 billion to expand the iron ore operations, is aiming to have the world’s first, fully automated, long-distance and heavy-haul rail system operating in 2015. Its automated rail will have 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) of track, 10,000 wagons and individual train sets 2.3 kilometers long, according to Credit Suisse Group AG. The company is spending $518 million on the program that was announced last year.


Rio also plans to automate about 40 percent of its Pilbara truck fleet by 2016. The goal is to reduce costs to $15.60 a ton by 2020, from $23.10 a ton in the first half of this year, Paul Young, a Sydney-based analyst with Deutsche Bank said in a report after touring operations last month, citing Rio data. Automation is set to help shave $1.90 a ton off costs and boost output by 20 million tons, or 5 percent, he said.


There is nothing about hauling coal that is functionally different than iron ore.  This type of technology will proliferate.  We have large farm tractors today which need no human driver and setting up a system for very large mine trucks and trains is even simpler to do due to the controlled environments. 

I expect this type of technology to have an impact over the next 10 years or so. 

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-02/rio-replacing-train-drivers-paid-like-u-s-surgeons.html


There is nothing about hauling coal that is functionally different than iron ore.


That is true in the sense of mass transportation of bulk materials for railroads, but coal with the right (or wrong) sulfur content can spontaneously ignite. Remember the Battleship Maine and the Spanish-American War? We (meaning the US) declared war on Spain, because we thought we were attacked, but later examination showed the munitions magazine next to the coal storage exploded from inside the ship. It's now widely believed that spontaneous combustion of coal sank the Maine.

As a young man, I had years of experience using liquid nitrogen. Before the end of Centralia, PA, back in the early '80s, when the fires reignited, I had this idea I could stop the underground fire with liquid nitrogen, so my wife and I went there. I was directed to the house of the Priest trying to save the town. The Priest informed me the mineral rights in that area were collectively owned by the town and the coal under the town was top grade anthracite. I questioned him about entrances to mines and why he thought the fire started. He pointed to hills all around the town and told me they were all man made. He told me about similar above ground fires in strip mine areas, such as West Virginia. Many thought the fires were intentional to remove the residents, but the Priest reported the information as he knew it.

That's when I first discovered how sulfur can spontaneously ignite coal or related strata, because conditions can remove the sulfur from top grade anthracite putting it in what is commonly called overburden. Once such material is fragmented by digging it up, it is mixed with air and can spontaneously ignite. Those man made hills in Centralia, PA were created by dumping such materials. Later, I remember ships spontaneously igniting in Baltimore harbor, when they were trying to export coal and railroads get the coal there.

Charcoal is the first thing a Chemist would think of to collect harmful substances. Since coal has existed in the ground for such a long period of time, it's picked up every nasty thing available to it. Even without a carbon dioxide problem, coal is a poor choice for a fuel. I've been in precipitators and scrubbers and they aren't efficient at removing pollution. Things like sulfur, mercury and cadmium are commonly talked about, but coal can contain radium, uranium, basically any bad thing millions of years can put there.

The Earth does a great job containing those nasty substances, but once man digs into it, those nasty substances get released. That is true with all mining, but coal has it's unique chemistry of collecting things. Mining is necessary to get resources, but the laws should require returning the area to equal or better conditions and management of all pollutants. The areas should be monitored to prevent harm to mankind or the environment. It isn't like any of this is something new, so we should have already learned and implemented such practices.

One of my big issues involves corporations getting public resources and paying pennies on the dollar by resource leases. I don't see anything a corporation can do that can't be contracted out, so let the government hire the corporations with contracts. That way, public resources are sold at market prices. I've been called many a bad name for advocating this, but I'm actually a capitalist, not a thief or a politician seeking graft. If the people own something, they should be paid market value for what they own, minus the contract price. The concept may be radical to America, but it isn't that radical. We have enough natural gas to put coal out of business and profit while doing it. We don't have to live like this, there is a better way. 

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Re: Coal
« Reply #78 on: October 07, 2013, 06:19:16 PM »
Jim
What I was referring to was the problems the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railroad ran into when they tried one man trains running through Lac-Megantic. I doubt that Quebec, Canada or any other jurisdiction is going to sign off on trains without at least minimal crews.


ggel
Smoking Hills in the NWT of Canada have been burning for a very long time. The reason apparently is that coal and sulfur strata touch each other and moisture assures combustion.
Terry

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Re: Coal
« Reply #79 on: October 07, 2013, 08:31:22 PM »
Terry,

But that issue does not apply to all train traffic.  There are many areas where automated trains could be used.  Having worked on trains I am not sure at all that people make them safer...I was riding in the engine as a brakeman once and the engineer fell asleep and did not wake up for 40 miles!!  I also fell asleep many times and we frequently radioed the rear of the train and got no response.

If a track has no busy at grade crossings I am sure an automated train is just as safe.  The giant dump trucks in the big strip mines could easily be automated as they follow a very simple path and are confined to the  mine site.

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: Coal
« Reply #80 on: October 15, 2013, 08:26:46 PM »
Jeff Rubin about oil and coal prices:

End of growth: How to achieve a truly sustainable future Featuring Jeff Rubin and David Suzuki


5:00 -25:00 (approx)

He claims that because of high oil prices (and the same for coal) we won't burn even 1/3 of what IPCC predicts.

What do you think about his argument, how solid is it? I think that he has a point about oil, but I'm not so sure about coal. Coal is still pretty cheap and it doesn't seem to be getting more expensive anytime soon.

There's also a problem with possible new technologies which could allow cheaper extraction of fossil fuels, as in fracking.

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Re: Coal
« Reply #81 on: October 15, 2013, 10:59:46 PM »
The problem is that the exact same argument was made about deepsea oil drilling and even more so about tar sands. But, surprise, these sources are being exploited just as fast as industry can corrupt officials to let them do it.

Price is an artificial indicator. If we run short of oil and coal, the world economy crashes and all prices become lower. Then suddenly the new price of oil and gas don't seem so bad.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

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Re: Coal
« Reply #82 on: October 16, 2013, 05:22:59 PM »
Wili spent a lot of time over at TOD as well as I did and he will be very familiar with the following.

Most economists do not have the scientific understanding of the fundamentals that govern at a fundamental level how the world runs. So they miss the point more often than not.

How much we burn has nothing to do with price it has to do with EROEI and AGW.  We 'shouldn't' burn any more and we hopefully won't burn more than that 1/3 but shoulda's and coulda's.  We will burn all that is available until either EROEI goes negative or AGW burns us to a crisp is the best bet.

Pricing of fossil fuels is not the best metric to use but economists understand it so they use the hammer on the nail they know.  "Real" price has an effect on demand and has all sorts of interesting effects on how our economies run.  But...

the real kicker is the EROEI of the fuel.  Energy Return On Energy Invested.  The "reason" prices have risen is that the EROEI of fossil fuels has decreased.  Especially for crude oil and its variations (tar sand oil, etc).

This is a very complicated physics/engineering topic and I won't even try to repeat it all here.  If you are really interested google The Oil Drum blog and look in its archives on EROEI and you will find solid discussions on the subject that will keep you busy for a few months.

A very brief snapshot would be that the world was built on cheap oil (which saying really means that the EROEI was very high - maybe 100:1.  You get 100 BTU's out for each 1 BTU of input).  We were rich in economic terms.  Today the numbers are much worse and I have seen numbers that indicate (for all kinds of oil aggregated) we might be around 20:1 and for specific new sources like tar sands oil the number is much lower.  So we are relatively 'poorer' to use the economists term.  The oil costs more so to speak.

A few numbers illustrate the point.  At a ratio of 101:1 we get 100 units of economic activity for each 1 unit put into providing fuel.  At a ratio of 51:1 we get 50 units of economic activity for each 1 unit put into providing fuel.  So we need to produce 2 times as much fuel to maintain current economic activity (assuming no improvements in efficiency).  At 26:1 it turns out we need 4 times as much production.  And so on. You see the problem here.  It is not possible long-term to ramp up production like that.  We have actually been getting much more efficient and production has been rising.  But we are hitting the limits on occasion and causing price spikes until efficiency and production catch up. 

Now the trend is what we need to be concerned about as it does not take a genius to figure out that the wheels fall off the train sometime before the EROEI ratio hits 1:1.  That point is when the physics says the party is without question - over.  But somewhere in between where we are now and that point our global economic system will cease to function because it was designed around high EROEI numbers which are going away never to be seen again.  This, in a nutshell, is the entire Peak Oil argument.  It has lost favor because we have busted out all stops in a mad search for more energy and been fairly successful at finding lots of it.  But the EROEI ratio is
not going away and nothing we are doing is changing that.  We are the personification of the Red Queen running.  As t he ratio drops we will spend an increasing percentage of our energy just getting more energy and that takes energy away from other activities (to the economist that means the supply/demand, cost/price numbers get out of whack and the economy does not grow fast anymore.  Time to cry for capitalism.).

I think the more probable answer, than the one provided by your link, is that only climate catastrophe will end the burning of fossil fuels.  AGW should collapse the system long before the EROEI ratio reaches the point where further activity takes more energy than is recovered.  If it doesn't our economic system will push us to keep burning to avoid economic collapse as long as the energy ratio is on the positive side of the equation.

The above is very sketchy and I feel a little uncomfortable giving such a brief answer.  The Peak Oil work is so voluminous and comprehensive.  It is not about 'price' it is about physics.  How long we can keep the ratio high is unknown  and as long as it is not getting under 5:1 or so we can keep the economic ship afloat (if we are ignoring AGW that is).  At a 20:1 ratio we are not as rich as we were at 100:1 but we are still rich.  At 5:1 we are still making a big profit so to speak it will just be that the amount left over for use will cause the 'price' to rise significantly unless we can figure out how to find lots more at that ratio than we did at higher ratios.  Or we get lots more efficient.  Or both.  Economies adapt. Physics does not. Fast rises in prices for fossil fuels will cause recessions but will not stop the train.  AGW is going to stop the train.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

wili

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Re: Coal
« Reply #83 on: October 16, 2013, 06:04:20 PM »
Nice summary, JimD.

I would just point out that, contrary to what many of us expected early on at TOD (and, yes, I did spend probably way too much time there, but learned a lot there, not the least from JimD himself!) is that in certain circumstances oil can be produced near or perhaps even below an EROEI of 1:1.

This is essentially what is happening with the tarsands. It hard to know exactly what its EROEI is, but even its promoters admit that it is very low (5:1, iirc), and many expect that this is a large over estimate.

So how can they produce an energy source that uses more energy than it extracts? Here is where some of the economists (and a persistent farmer or two) got it right and we got it wrong. As I understand it, there is lots of natural gas in the area, but no infrastructure to take it to market. On top of that, fracking has driven down the price of NG, so it's not profitable to bring that source of it to market at current prices. So instead that local energy source is used to carry out the very energy intensive process of turning the sandy-tarry guck that is tar sands into oil.

Basically, they are burning ff to make ff--one of the reasons this source is a particularly bad path to take if we are hoping to keep global temperatures anywhere close to the traditionally agreed upon limit of 2 degrees C (a limit we now know is itself far too high to avoid catastrophes and to trip tipping points...).

As with many things related to energy, economy and the environment, there are complications within complications. I doubtlessly over-simplified her, but I hope the main point is clear--it's not just a matter of "FFs will soon be too expensive to extract (either in economic or EROEI terms), so we won't have to worry about that for much longer."

We are deeply addicted/committed to the energy density and utility of liquid fossil fuels (as well as the other forms)--the entire infrastructure of modern industrial society is still almost entirely built around it.

Short of an outright universal ban on their extraction (and even then no doubt, since no law can be perfectly enforced everywhere always), somebody somewhere is going to continue to extract oil (or its precursors) to fuel military and/or commercial toys of various kinds as long as there is any remotely left to extract.

Our only (increasingly hopeless looking) hope is that we can shift the oil flow from a gusher (really a continuous Niagara, quite literally) to a trickle before we totally cook the planet to a crunchy black crisp.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

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Re: Coal
« Reply #84 on: October 16, 2013, 07:20:37 PM »
Thanks to the recent paper about the PETM carbon injection, I've learned a few interesting things - one was about coal and I thought it was worth a minor note on this thread.

I didn't appreciate that it is thought that the majority of coal was formed because wood was - then - much more rot resistant (as the organisms to break it down hadn't come along yet).

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=mushroom-evolution-breaks-down-lignin-slows-coal-formation

I've always taken the viewpoint that over geological timescales the planet would sequester the carbon dioxide again as coal and oil, like it did before. Unfortunately, that assumption seems considerably weaker - and hence - digging up and burning billions of tonnes of coal might in fact mean we are altering the planet for far longer than we might at first think...

... unless we think other carbon sinks and reservoirs can compensate in such a way that the basic operation of the earth system remains unaltered long term (geologically speaking)?

domen_

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Re: Coal
« Reply #85 on: October 16, 2013, 07:33:13 PM »
Pricing of fossil fuels is not the best metric to use but economists understand it so they use the hammer on the nail they know.  "Real" price has an effect on demand and has all sorts of interesting effects on how our economies run.  But...

the real kicker is the EROEI of the fuel.
Why would EROEI be better indicator than price? It's the price that makes a difference in markets, not EROEI. As long as EROEI stays above 1:1 then it makes sense to exploit it. But if price is too high then it's not gonna happen because it's not gonna be profitable. Or alternatively: some other source may be more profitable and market turns to this other source (that's also the point of puting price in carbon).

I can see that happening to oil, but I've yet to see that happen to coal.

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Re: Coal
« Reply #86 on: October 16, 2013, 10:14:37 PM »
It is a good idea to artificially increase the coast of these ff through taxes (though ultimately we have to go further and directly regulate these forms of fuel, eventually out of existence).

But, since oil is so fundamental to the world economy, when its price goes suddenly up because of scarcity, it tends to crash (or play a major role in crashing) the world economy. Again, that makes everything, including oil, cheaper in dollar terms, though expensive or unaffordable to more and more people who are now out of work.

In other words, I think there are feedbacks. Money itself could be seen as a proxy for energy.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

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Re: Coal
« Reply #87 on: October 16, 2013, 10:29:52 PM »
domen

Why would EROEI be better indicator than price? It's the price that makes a difference in markets, not EROEI.

Well I do not think that that is true.  Price is a derivative of EROEI.  And not the first derivative and not the only variable in the equation, but fundamentally that is where it comes from.

Markets are based upon a lot of imaginary concepts that dare not be shown in the light of day.  Every day all indices go up or down or up and down.  The reasoning given is almost always based upon non-real world information.  Usually some version of people's psychological reaction to some external factor.  And then they go the other way the next day.  The price of oil does the same thing and seldom is it based upon important factors.  It is often manipulated by those who sit in positions that give them this kind of control and they always do it to manipulate some metric which will garner them profits.  Sure you can manipulate price and run some folks out of the market and bankrupt a few companies and make some money off of doing so.  But the economic value of a fossil fuel differs in a fundamental way from some typical widget.  The amount of excess energy available to use and the amount of energy we spend obtaining it is the foundation of our population and our current form of civilization.  We can't just switch from Target to WallMart and pick up a different version of it.

But the world will still run along pretty fine based upon the fundamental EROEI numbers.  As they drift down the screws holding civilization together will slowly tighten.  As this happens using fossil fuels for non-essential purposes will be constrained over time and the normal supply/demand type of calculations will no longer work.  For the economic approach on this issue to work the rise in price has to be able to result in additional supplies or replacements.  Since the EROEI numbers, and other aspects of the physics, do not allow for this the economics approach is not valid in the case of fossil fuels.  If you are making widgets it is mostly a different story.

Economics calculations are to what is fundamental similar to how Newtonian physics is to Special Relativity.   They work under certain constraints just fine, but they are an illusion of what is really happening and that always needs to be kept in mind because as soon as those constraints no longer apply they give incorrect answers.  Just as most observers only see Newtonian physics at work and have no knowledge or understanding of their limits or what is fundamental most economists see only the Newtonian version of the world and not where the limits lie and what is fundamental.

If you really find this anti-economics stuff interesting you should spend some free time in the old Oil Drum archives.  If you are not familiar with TOD it was likely the best blog ever in terms of what could be learned from it.  Very high levels of discourse, on a wide range of mostly technical topics, often wrapped around original articles by various PhD's.  Many of the postings were by folks with serious expertise.  Economists got beat up there a lot.  And some gave as good as they got.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: Coal
« Reply #88 on: October 17, 2013, 02:35:10 AM »
I was one of the ones that were beating up on Economics, but not from the perspective of any great expertise.

I must say that there was at least one place where the economists on the forum got the last laugh, though they were mostly too polite to gloat. When the price of oil started to really soar in '07-'08, the economists on the forum were pretty much all confidently saying that the price would drop considerably at some point because of 'demand destruction.' Many of the regulars, myself included, scoffed at this notion, since oil is so crucial, and we were so sure that we were in the midst of the peaking of oil (which we were, as far as conventional oil goes).

But, as we now know, the price did in fact crash, along with the world economy. So the economists got that one right, and I and many others got it wrong. Of course, as I pointed out, the lower price was not much of a consolation to all those millions that were thrown out of work, and so were unable to buy gas at any price. Which brings one back to the old saw about economists knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing. (I just had to get in one last dig, having already eaten my humble pie.)

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"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

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Re: Coal
« Reply #89 on: October 21, 2013, 05:19:09 PM »
Some more interesting reading on coal issues.

In  China.  BAD smog.

..Visibility shrank to less than half a football field and small-particle pollution soared to a record 40 times higher than an international safety standard in one northern Chinese city as the region entered its high-smog season...
....For the large northern city of Harbin, the city's heating systems kicked in on Sunday, and on Monday visibility there was less than 50 meters (yards), ...
....The density of fine particulate matter, PM2.5, used as an indicator of air quality was well above 600 micrograms per cubic meter — including several readings of exactly 1,000 — for several monitoring stations in Harbin, according to figures posted on the website of China's environmental protection agency. They were the first known readings of 1,000 since China began releasing figures on PM2.5 in January 2012, and it was not immediately clear if the devices used for monitoring could give readings higher than that.


One would presume that this kind of pollution would add impetus to switching away from coal.  But who knows.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/super-smog-beijing-china_n_4134226.html


From the US.  Predictions of a boom in power plant construction (mostly natural gas) but also info on the status of the lawsuit to the Supreme Court to eliminate the new EPA rules on construction of new coal plants.

..But between now and 2040, the country will need to build 340,000 megawatts of generating capacity - or the equivalent of 15 of China's massive Three Gorges Dam - to meet growing demand from consumers and replace retiring plants, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)....

...Last Tuesday, a NAM-supported effort to challenge the rules cleared an important hurdle when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the case. The regulations, which critics call a "war on coal," will cost industry "tens of billions of dollars per year," according to the petition to the high court.


The heavy push towards natural gas power plants will increase the controversy over fracking and that fight will be substantial.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/war-on-coal-natural-gas-power-plants_n_4135176.html?ref=topbar
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Laurent

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Re: Coal
« Reply #90 on: October 21, 2013, 07:22:37 PM »
Not only Beijing !
"China: record smog levels shut down city of Harbin"
http://www.euronews.com/2013/10/21/china-record-smog-levels-shut-down-city-of-harbin/

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #91 on: November 16, 2013, 05:07:26 PM »
Underground coal gasification project in Wyoming

Few people have heard of coal gasification, which is the process of creating synthetic natural gas out of coal by setting it on fire and injecting it with oxygen and water. But even fewer people have likely heard of underground coal gasification, which is the process of doing that while the coal is still deep underground.


Coal gasification (syngas) is a process of converting coal into a flammable gas (used in the early years of industrialization before production of natural gas  came into widespread use) or via the Fisher-Tropsch Process into liquid fuel for transportation purposes (Nazi Germany used this process extensively during WWII).  Converting coal in this fashion is very polluting and results in a big loss in efficiency over the direct burning of coal (not that I am advocating that either).

This project also threatens the water supply in an arid region of Wyoming (my home state).

...Local residents and environmental groups are  fighting the project, saying it is an untested process that only promises to contaminate their already dwindling water supply with deadly benzene. If approved, the project — located in part of a major regional aquifer — would likely receive federal exemption from the Safe Water Drinking Act, a law that protects the quality of drinking water.

On Nov. 14, the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council will review Linc Energy’s application for a “state research and development” license to drill thousands of feet into Wyoming’s portion of the Powder River Basin.
....


..[UCG] involves drilling two wells – at some distance from each other – into the coal seam. The first well supplies oxidants (a mixture of water and air or water and oxygen), which are injected into the location where the process is actually occurring. The second well permits the syngas produced to escape under pressure to the surface. This gas contains approximately 80% of the original energy content of the coal, and is a combination of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and methane....

 
.. UCG plants only emit carbon dioxide, which according to a 2010 paper by UK’s Newcastle University, makes it perfect for pairing with carbon capture and storage (CCS). CCS is the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions before they are emitted into the atmosphere and storing them deep underground.

If, however, UCG is not paired with CCS, it could result in massive carbon emissions, according to an article in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “If an additional 4 trillion tonnes [of coal] were extracted without the use of carbon capture or other mitigation technologies atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels could quadruple,” the article said, “resulting in a global mean temperature increase of between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius.”
...


...that UCG paired with CCS is a way to mitigate climate change effects from fossil fuel burning, but also noted that projects where coal seams were located next to prolific aquifers were extremely likely to experience groundwater contamination from benzene.

In fact, groundwater contamination from benzene is one of the main reasons that a UCG project has not happened in the United States in almost two decades. In the late 1970s, the U.S. Department of Energy conducted three pilot-scale test burns in Campbell County at a UCG project known as Hoe Creek, which caused benzene contamination in the area’s groundwater.

That contamination from the test burns allegedly cost the federal government $10 million and took 23 years to clean, according to a protest letter from a Wyoming family that lives near the proposed project....


Note that Campbell County is where the new plant is proposed.  This idea is so bad that it boggles the mind it is even being proposed. 

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/11/12/2923951/untold-story-wyoming-proposed-coal-project/
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

wili

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Re: Coal
« Reply #92 on: November 17, 2013, 06:40:01 AM »
These are the kinds of schemes that assure that we will continue to emit ever greater amounts of CO2 and methane even as society crumbles around us and the cascading sequences of global economic and civilizational crashes fall down around our heads.

If you can gassify coal without mining it, even getting a fraction of the total energy out of it, that will be more and more worth it, monetarily, in an energy constrained world.
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #93 on: November 22, 2013, 05:30:19 AM »
From 2007 to 2012, the governments of developed countries invested almost $35 billion in coal plants internationally.

Throw in coal mines and other related activities, as well as the financing in all three areas in 2013 so far, and the total comes to just over $59 billion, according to figures compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
...


That is a lot of investment which they are going to want to make their money and some profits back on.  Hard to just turn off.

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/11/21/2979781/coal-financing/
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #94 on: December 03, 2013, 05:08:20 PM »
Petcoke

While not actually coal (it is a byproduct of refining the really dirty crude like the tar sands of Canada) it consists of almost pure carbon and when burned is a huge producer of CO2.  Our favorite buddies, Koch Industries, are shipping it out of the US to be burned to make steel, cement and other industrial products. 

...Nearly pure carbon, petcoke is a potent source of carbon dioxide if burned, which has led to it being banned as a domestic fuel source in the U.S. ..


... U.S. petroleum coke exports January-February 2012 averaging roughly 470,000 barrels per day. The major foreign markets for U.S. petcoke export markets are China, Japan, India, Brazil, Turkey, and Mexico. While petcoke is not as valuable as other higher-priced U.S. petroleum product exports such as gasoline and diesel fuel, it was nevertheless a major contributor in 2011 to the United States becoming a net exporter of petroleum products for the first time since 1949....

...A major player in these petcoke exports is now the Oxbow Corporation, owned by William I. Koch, selling 11 million tons annually.


Another ugly aspect of the exploitation of the tar sands.

http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Rising-slag-heaps-of-Petcoke-in-Midwest-Arouse-Environmentalists-Concerns.html
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #95 on: December 03, 2013, 06:00:12 PM »
It is nice to see that Bloomberg media is against coal.

We can only hope that helps make a difference.

The logic is pretty straightforward. Carbon dioxide emissions are threatening the planet. In the U.S., coal plants are the second-largest source of those emissions, after transportation. Therefore, the Environmental Protection Agency should impose emissions limits on coal-fired plants.....


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-11/five-bad-arguments-from-the-coal-industry.html
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #96 on: December 11, 2013, 04:19:13 PM »
Updated data on the state of coal power generation in the US.

...As I discussed in a recent blog, the U.S. coal power industry has been in decline for several years now. Coal-fired electricity fell from about half of U.S. generation in 2008 to 37 percent in 2012. Going back to 2009, nearly 21 GW of coal power capacity has already retired (6 percent of the U.S. coal fleet), and another 34 GW of coal generators has been announced for closure. ...

....When compared with natural gas, 329 coal-fired power generators in 40 states — representing 58.7 GW of power capacity — failed our economic test (see map). This total includes 69 coal units (17.8 GW) that are new to our ripe for retirement list for this 2013 update.....


A couple of points that are not addressed.  Fracking on a massive scale is required to keep natural gas production high.  This issue has serious downsides and it is not certain that we want to keep going this direction.  In any case, even if we continue to frack on a massive scale the supplies of natural gas are not unlimited and we eventually run into a supply issue again.  Not to mention that recent studies have shown that methane leakage from natural gas production is significant and lowers the advantages of using it to replace coal.  Thus worsening the above numbers.

Another point on the negative side.   If you look at their numbers on coal power generation (from 50% to 37% of total generation from 2008 to last year) it looks like a 26% drop over that time.  But it is not because US power generation was not static over that time.  It grew significantly.  If you look at total coal consumption for power generation over that time the drop in percentage terms is actually 17.4%, or 2/3 of what the article implies due to not  fleshing out the math.  This brings to further light a point that I have brought up before.  If almost all the wind and solar power generation brought on line is for NEW capacity and not to replace high carbon emission technology we are just following the BAU trajectory and not accomplishing much.  Natural gas production/power generation as is actually conducted is a BAU perpetuation and not a long-term solution.

Part 1( mostly about natural gas)

http://blog.ucsusa.org/ripe-for-retirement-examining-the-competitiveness-of-u-s-coal-plants-333

Part 2 (about wind)

...Thanks to new technology developments that have lowered the costs of new wind projects and increased electricity production, our new analysis shows wind power could play an even greater role than natural gas in replacing existing coal plants.

The analysis shows that retrofitting 71 gigawatts (GW) of existing U.S. coal capacity with modern pollution controls would be more expensive than the cost of building new wind projects with the federal production tax credit (PTC) included. This is 12 GW, or 21 percent, higher than our core scenario comparing coal to the cost of increasing generation at existing natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants.
...

...LBNL data shows these higher capacity factors combined with reductions in capital costs has resulted in a 43 percent drop in U.S. average power purchase prices (PPAs) for wind over the past 3 years (from ~$70/megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2009 to below $40/MWh in 2012).....


Note that these numbers require the continuation of the Production Tax Credit which is not certain.

http://blog.ucsusa.org/tag/ripe-for-retirement-2013-update

part 3 not available yet
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Shared Humanity

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Re: Coal
« Reply #97 on: December 11, 2013, 06:57:20 PM »
JimD......this is why I feel that conservation is a more effective way for reducing emissions. It would require drastic lifestyle changes for every consumer.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2013, 09:05:45 PM by Shared Humanity »

ritter

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Re: Coal
« Reply #98 on: December 11, 2013, 08:33:22 PM »
JimD......this is why I feel that conservation is a more effective way for reducing emissions. It would require drastic lifestyle for every consumer.

More effective but less likely. The rub is that the rest of the world wants to live my comfy US lifestyle.

JimD

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Re: Coal
« Reply #99 on: December 11, 2013, 08:46:20 PM »
SH

We are certainly locked in a dilemma.

Other than a few scientists and activists there is almost no one who is not still in a growth is at least ok, some form of BAU (whether regular BAU or the Green kind promoted by the Progressive faction - i.e. Romm at Climate Progress) is appropriate, and having more babies is a personal choice and human right mode. 

At the same time it is obvious that continued growth in either economic terms or population terms is suicidal.  We cannot grow our way out of this situation.  If all we do with alternative energy is figure out a way to power the world and continue to let population grow we are going to do more damage to our chances for long-term survival than if we just let the fossil fuel industry destroy the climate over the next 30 years. 

If we try to facilitate a world population which is expected to reach 9 billion we are going to use up so many resources needed for adaptation to AGW that it will guarantee we don't make it.  IF we are going to make it we must cut the standard of living of all rich countries by large amounts.  Not only no more growth there but actual reductions in consumption and standard of living.  But this DOES NOT MEAN that we have the luxury of economically growing the developing world.  If we do that we waste any reductions among the currently wealthy countries.  This is the harshness of approaching the point where we have to deal with Reality.  We are not in a zero sum game where reductions by the wealthy can be shifted to the poor (the fairness concept - Reality does not recognize the fairness concept).  The sum is not constant. It is decreasing by 1 chip every day.  We cannot afford to increase anyone's standard of living, we can only afford reductions.  Spending resources to reduce mortality does not help humanity's chances of long-term survival (are you listening bill gates?).  Not being involved in serious efforts to decrease population is suicidal (are you listening China, India, Islam, Catholics, Protestants, Mormons?).

Human nature is not to sacrifice oneself for the greater good.  People sacrifice themselves for their families and soldiers for their brothers.  Not for their states, countries, humanity and especially not for strangers.  Some for their religions of course, but religion is part of the problem not part of the solution.  Human nature is much happier with the idea of helping the stranger sacrifice himself for the greater good.  We are going to see lots of that in the future.

Since we do not have the intellectual or willpower fortitude to do what is needed we will just mosey along with BAU until we get enough concern in public opinion to convert to BAU-Green methods of progress and growth.  Then we will collapse because neither approach addressed the fundamentals of the problem. 

I guess I am in a dark mood today even though it is pretty sunny outside.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein