- Jan 18, 2022 5:45 am GMT
"So much for the myriad claims about going 'beyond coal.' According to a new report from the Rhodium Group, U.S. coal consumption jumped by 17 percent last year compared to 2020 levels. That’s a huge increase, which Rhodium says was 'largely driven by a run-up in natural gas prices.' Rather than burn gas, which averaged about $4.93 per million Btu last year — more than two times the price in 2020 — many electricity producers chose to burn coal instead.
The surge in domestic coal use is significant for two reasons. First, it proves again that coal remains an essential fuel for electricity producers both here in the U.S. and around the world. Second, it shows that the Biden administration’s pledge to decarbonize the electric grid by 2035 is little more than wishful thinking.
Hate coal if it makes you happy, but the reality is that power producers have relied on it ever since Thomas Edison used it to fuel the world’s first central power plant in Lower Manhattan in 1882. Indeed, the jump in domestic consumption is part of a surge in global demand for coal, which still accounts for about 36 percent of global electricity generation. Last month, the International Energy Agency reported that 'global coal power generation is on course to increase by 9 percent in 2021 to 10,350 terawatt-hours (TWh) — a new all-time high.' The agency also reported that 'coal demand may well hit a new all-time high in the next two years.'
The increase in coal use provides yet more evidence for what I call the 'Iron Law of Electricity,'which says that “People, businesses and countries will do whatever they have to do to get the electricity they need.” That law was on display in November, at the COP26 summit in Glasgow where India, China and other developing countries rejected a deal that called for a 'phase-out' of coal-fired power plants. Instead, the final Glasgow agreement called for countries to 'phase down' their use of the carbon-heavy fuel."
If you believe renewables can wean us from coal and gas, it's time to take a hard look in the mirror and admit you were wrong. Otherwise, you're in denial - and in 2022, denying renewables have failed us is worse than denying climate change.
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