NewEnergyNews: NEWS FROM THE BATTLELINES OF THE WORLDWIDE WAR ON COAL

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Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

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YESTERDAY

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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

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  • Monday, May 30, 2011

    NEWS FROM THE BATTLELINES OF THE WORLDWIDE WAR ON COAL

    Without meaning to detract from the heroic American men and women who have stood up for and go on standing up for freedom and the right of free expression, it is worthwhile remembering today that, as outlined in the guest post below, there is another kind of war going on that the people of this good earth are slowly winning.

    This war doesn't get the headlines other wars get, it isn't led by a pentagon full of four-star generals and the warriors on the front lines only wear deep commitment as a uniform.

    But more victims fall to coal's weapons of mass destruction day in and day out than fall to terrorism, and winning this war will surely mean at least as much as victory in more well-publicized struggles, and those on the front lines also deserve to be celebrated as heroes.


    Down with coal! The grassroots anti-coal movement goes global
    Ted Nace (w/Bob Burton, Christine Shearer, Cynthia Ong, Jamie Henn, John Hepburn, Joshua Frank, Justin Guay, Kate Hoshour and Mark Wakeham), 27 May 2011 (Grist)

    In the United States and Europe, the triple whammy of recession, cheap alternatives, and aggressive anti-coal campaigning has helped halt the expansion of coal use. Since 2004, plans to build more than 150 coal plants in the U.S. have been abandoned. In fact, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), a government agency that analyzes energy-related statistics, predicts continued stagnation or decline in coal-fired electricity generation in the U.S. and the European Union over the coming decades.

    Facing resistance to its longstanding rule in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, King Coal has redoubled ambitions elsewhere. According to 2010 projections by the EIA, coal consumption in the non-OECD world will increase by 23 quadrillion BTUs between 2007 and 2020. That's roughly the equivalent of today's entire U.S. coal-mining and coal-power sector, or approximately a thousand coal-fired generators, each 300 megawatts (MW) in size, spewing toxic chemicals into the environments and lungs of surrounding communities, and an equal number of million-ton-per-year coal mines.

    While China struggles with the enormity of the pollution burden from its world-leading annual coal consumption, it is not the only hotbed of future coal-plant construction. Activists in India, for example, report that regulators gave the green light to at least 173 coal projects during 2010 -- nearly one plant every other day. In Southeast Asia, large Chinese utilities such as China Huadian are setting up shop to finance and build a slew of new coal plants. Meanwhile, new coal mines are being proposed in Australia and Indonesia, overwhelmingly for export sales. Countries from Mozambique to Mongolia, which have had little domestic need for coal, are now being hyped as the next big players in the global coal rush.

    (from Grist - click to enlarge)

    In the fertile farming areas that support large rural populations in much of Asia, the new coal boom spells civil conflict, as fields are seized, villages are ordered to pack up and leave, and communities resist. For the U.S. coal movement, the 2,500 people who turned out to protest the Capitol Power Plant was a large number. In India or Bangladesh, marches and demonstrations of more than 10,000 people are not uncommon.

    The dominant international narrative focuses on the need to build large numbers of new coal plants across the developing world to spur economic progress. However, the assertion that development can only be achieved through a massive expansion of coal use is being met with increasingly fierce resistance by those asked to bear the most toxic and destructive burdens of this expansion: the people living next to coal projects.

    Local populations are resisting private and public-sector pressure to dramatically expand coal-fired power because these projects are not intended for their benefit. While local people face displacement and the destruction of their livelihoods, electricity is often exported to urban centers. Communities are calling for a more sustainable model of energy development that prioritizes access to energy services for all, environmental sustainability, and human health. Their efforts to halt coal-plant construction have placed them front and center in the struggle over energy and development in the 21st century.

    click to enlarge

    In the past, most communities struggling to take on ill-conceived projects have done so largely on their own, but that's starting to change. International coalitions are beginning to develop to bring publicity and support to front-line efforts. Here are a dozen places around the world where people are uniting to halt coal projects, increasingly with international support.

    1. Sabah, Malaysia
    In April, 1,500 people convened on a beach in Malaysia to savor a victory that had been judged impossible just two years earlier: the defeat of a 300-MW coal plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah, located on the northeast side of the island of Borneo. Celebrations were also underway 7,500 miles away, in California, among a group of activists who had helped draw international publicity to the issue -- including a Time magazine article entitled "A Coal Plant in Paradise." The Malaysian group LEAP (Land Empowerment Animals People) helped forge the coalition of Malaysian NGOs, grassroots communities, and citizen movements, and generate support from the U.S. and other parts of the world. Along with LEAP, the coalition included World Wildlife Fund for Malaysia, Malaysian Nature Society, Partners of Community Organizations Trust, and the Sabah Environmental Protection Association. Among those providing overseas support were 350.org and Mongabay, which worked to publicize the project, and Daniel Kammen of UC-Berkeley and the World Bank, who coordinated a comprehensive energy analysis proposing clean energy alternatives to coal-fired power in Sabah.

    (from Grist - click to enlarge)

    2. Phulbari, Bangladesh
    Bangladesh's high population density (more than 164 million people in a country the size of Iowa) and rich agricultural land make coal mining a destructive proposition. In the township of Phulbari, as many as 220,000 people would be displaced by a proposed 15-million-ton-per-year coal mine and a 500-MW coal plant. Community opposition reached a crescendo in 2006, when paramilitary forces fired on a protest rally of as many as 70,000 people, killing three people and injuring 200. In the wake of these deaths, nationwide protests and strikes closed down the country for four days. They were brought to an end only when the government signed an agreement to ban open-pit mining and permanently expel the project's London-based financier, Asia Energy Corporation (now Global Coal Management Resources Plc or GCM). Although demonstrators burned down the company's project information office and its personnel were forced to flee the country, GCM has since returned, with backing from New York-based financier Christian Leone and U.S Ambassador James Moriarty. During recent demonstrations, the Bangladeshi government has deployed its Rapid Action Battalion, notorious for torture and for the deaths of persons in its custody. The repression has failed. In October 2010, tens of thousands of people joined a 250-mile march from the capital of Dhaka to the town of Phulbari. The coalition opposing the mine has grown to include groups from across the spectrum of Bangladesh's civil society, as well as international groups. The San Francisco-based International Accountability Project is involved in coordinating overseas support and outreach.

    (from Grist - click to enlarge)

    3. Andhra Pradesh, India
    This coastal state of eastern India is experiencing a coal-plant construction boom, including the 4,000-MW Krishnapatnam Ultra Mega Power Project, one of nine such massive projects in planning or under construction across the country. (By comparison, the largest coal plant in the United States, Plant Scherer in Georgia, is 3,564 MW.) Residents have resisted the siting of large plants in densely populated and ecologically sensitive agricultural districts. The 2,640-MW Sompeta plant proposed by Nagarjuna Construction Company and the 2,640-MW Bhavanapadu plant proposed by East Coast Energy have both provoked large nonviolent protests that have ended in police attacks, including four deaths of local residents. Following coverage of the police action on Indian television, investigations revealed a pattern of "crony capitalism" among the permitting agencies and corporate sponsors. As of May 2011, the Sompeta plant had been cancelled and the Bhavanapadu plant had been placed on hold by officials, with corruption investigations continuing. However, the sponsor of Sompeta, Nagarjuna Construction, is now initiating a 1,320-MW plant elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh.

    4. Dawei, Burma
    In Dawei, on the beautiful southern peninsula coast of Burma, Italian-Thai Development Plc signed a deal in Nov. 2010 to build a 4,000-to-6,000-MW coal plant, the largest in Southeast Asia and possibly the world. Within weeks of the signing, 19 villages had received orders to move. Dawei is 10 miles from Maungmagan, a scenic beach and rich fishing district. Burma is an authoritarian state where land displacements occur by edict and activism carries heavy risks. Yet despite the repression, grassroots action has been effective, such as in 2001 when villagers in the town of Tachilek organized protests and blocked trucks delivering construction equipment, forcing the cancellation [PDF] of Golden Triangle's coal plant.

    5. Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, Thailand
    On Feb. 24, 2011, 10,000 people formed a human chain in this province in Thailand to protest a coal-fired power plant planned by Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. This protest followed a decade of organizing and protesting by the Eastern People's Network focusing on the coastal Thai town of Rayong. The protests delayed operations of the massive Map Ta Phut industrial park, including a 1,400-MW coal plant.

    (from Grist - click to enlarge)

    6. Konkan Coast of Maharashtra, India
    Home to 112 million people, this state in western India is building a concentration of large coal plants on a tiny sliver of land south of Mumbai known as the Konkan Coast (dubbed "the California of Maharashtra"). As much as 35,000 to 50,000 MW of generating capacity is on the drawing board. Concerned by the pollution and displacement entailed by the massive proposals, farmers have targeted some of the largest projects. One of these is the 4,000-MW Girye Ultra Mega Power Project, which prompted mango farmers and others to stage marches, hunger strikes, and other nonviolent actions. They successfully forced the project to seek a new location [PDF] as protests barred the government from acquiring the needed land. Other projects facing local resistance include the 1,000-MW Mauda power station and the 1,200-to-1,800-MW Shahapur Thermal Power Project.

    7. Orissa, India
    In this state on the eastern coast of India, the scale of coal-plant development is staggering. As much as 58,000 MW of projects are in the works, including three 1,800-MW coal plants under development by KSK Energy Ventures and the 4,000-MW Sundargarh Ultra Mega Power Project being planned by National Thermal Power Corporation. Ranjan Panda of Water Initiatives Odisha says that this level of coal development would require a minimum of 2,297 million cubic meters of water per year, enough to meet the domestic water requirement of close to 210 million people. In March, activists from across India converged on Orissa for a national conclave to plan a response to the coal boom, as well as the related issues of energy use and climate change. The mobilization includes the National Alliance for People's Movements, Focus Odisha, and numerous other groups.

    8. Madhya Pradesh, India
    Since 1977, when the World Bank financed the first coal-fired plant in the region, the Singrauli district of this state in central India has been notorious for roughshod development and population displacement. Now more massive coal plants are being built or planned. They include the 3,960-MW Chitrangi Power Project, the 3,960-MW Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (which is getting nearly $1 billion in financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank), the 1,200-MW Mahan Super Thermal Power Project, the 750-MW Hindalco Captive Power Project, the 1,320-MW Nigrie Thermal Power Project, the 2,690-MW DB Power (M.P.) Limited Project, and the Vindhyachal Stage-4 Project, which will add an additional 1,000 MW to an existing 3,260-MW power station. The concentration of power generation in an agricultural area has left local communities reeling. The Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project, for example, has displaced 6,000 people. One man is benefiting: Mukesh Ambani, the controlling owner of India-based Reliance Power, whose reported net worth of $27 billion makes him one of the world's five richest individuals.

    (from Grist - click to enlarge)

    9. Queensland and New South Wales, Australia
    On a tonnage basis, Australia already leads the world in coal exports, and that lead may widen significantly if several massive mines are allowed to move forward in the eastern coal-mining states of Queensland and New South Wales. Australia is undergoing a "coal rush" with more than 100 new projects or expansions in planning, including a number of mega-projects such as the 60-million-ton-per-year Carmichael mine by India-based Adani Group and the 30-million-ton-per-year China First mine proposed by billionaire Clive Palmer. Farmers and ranchers are fighting back with a concerted effort to protect rich agricultural lands and precious water resources from mining operations. Environmentalists are challenging numerous projects in the courts and have staged colorful direct action, such as a creative blockade of the port of Newcastle.

    10. Victoria, Australia
    While the low-quality coal in this state in southeastern Australia is not suitable for export, it provides 91 percent of the fuel used for power generation in Victoria itself. Last year, Environment Victoria and other groups came close to shutting down the aging Hazelwood Power Station, the second largest source of carbon pollution in the country, after commitments by Victoria Premier John Brumby to begin a staged retirement of the plant. The narrow victory of the Liberal-National party in Nov. 2010 dashed hopes for near-term action on the plant from the state government, though the federal government is now exploring linking closure of the plant to the price on carbon. Activist attention has also shifted toward preventing the construction of the proposed Dual Gas Power Station, which would burn a combination of brown coal and natural gas.

    11. Colombia
    One of the oldest examples of citizens working across national boundaries on coal issues is the coalition of human rights and labor organizations that has brought attention to the massive mines in Colombia, such as the 35-by-5-mile Cerrejón coal mine, operated by Cerrejón Coal Company, and the mines operated by Drummond. The expansion of these mines has been marked by paramilitary violence, high numbers of deaths in mining accidents, and displacement of entire communities, including Tabaco, a 700-person Afro-Colombian village that was razed in 2001. Witness for Peace has brought members of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth to visit the mines, as well as people who live near the Salem Power Station in Massachusetts, which uses coal from Colombia.

    (from Grist - click to enlarge)

    12. Sarangani Province, the Philippines
    In the Philippines, grassroots protests against new coal plants and open-pit coal mining have taken place across the country. In the coastal town of Maasim on the southern island of Mindanao, local fishermen organized a flotilla of outrigger boats in Nov. 2010 to protest the proposed 200-MW Kamanga power station, while 800 people formed a human banner spelling out "No to Coal" on the grounds of a local elementary school. Supporters of the efforts included the local Catholic church, leaders of indigenous groups, foreign divers, and Greenpeace. At a separate demonstration, students at Mindanao State University dressed as Na'vi from the film Avatar marched on the fenced property of the proposed plant site. In April 2011, South Cotabato province, also on Mindanao, adopted an ordinance that would ban open pit mining in the region.

    As grassroots resistance grows in countries around the globe, a nascent, interconnected, worldwide anti-coal movement is emerging. In an increasingly globalized world, local campaigns can quickly reach a global audience and tap into previously unimagined support networks. While the participants in this new movement are diverse, some of the patterns are becoming clear: sustained and passionate grassroots activism is challenging the idea that fossil fuels are the only option. Many governments have backtracked or shelved plans in response to political pressure or legal actions. Some banks, investors, and even energy companies are growing increasingly wary of further supporting coal.

    But it's still too early to write the obituary for King Coal. The industry is now attempting to wrap itself in the cloak of "development," justifying dirty energy projects in the name of providing energy access for some of the world's most economically poor countries. While many coal projects have encountered strong opposition, too many others are proceeding without challenge.

    click to enlarge

    Yet those who are pushing coal projects are increasingly being seen in much the same light as tobacco-industry executives. Like tobacco, coal insinuated its way into our lives delivering a cheap, short-term energy high, but leaving a bitter long-term aftertaste -- in the case of coal, ruined rivers and lands, lives wrecked and cut short, abandoned communities, and an increasingly polluted and potentially unlivable atmosphere.

    We need clean energy alternatives, not the continuation of dirty energy that destroys people's health, livelihoods, and resources. Will you join the growing global movement to move away from coal?

    click thru for more Climate Hope

    [Ted Nace directs CoalSwarm, a "collaborative information clearinghouse on U.S. and international coal mines, plants, companies, politics, impacts, and alternatives..." See also Climate Hope: On the Front Lines of the Fight Against Coal]

    1 Comments:

    At 12:26 PM, Blogger Bradly Jones said...

    Thank you for this article.less people are posting stuff like this. Nice job with the visual also.



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    call Bangladesh

     

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