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Sat Jul 28, 2012, 08:10 PM

Cheap Coal Is Dead. Long Live Renewable Age

Cheap Coal Is Dead. Long Live Renewable Age
By Carl Pope, Bloomberg

Part 1
June 20, 2012

"Sustainable Energy for All" is the main theme for this week's Rio+20 United Nations gathering in Brazil. The challenge of making energy both accessible and sustainable has grown more complicated in the past year or so, and also more exciting. These are tough times for coal and other high-carbon sources of energy, while the news about clean energy is more promising.

In March, the power generating arm of India’s largest conglomerate, the Tata Group, announced that it was shifting its investment strategy from coal-fired thermal plants to wind and solar renewable projects. Coal projects, Tata said, were becoming “impossible” to develop, and investment in them had stopped.


With this declaration, one of Asia’s biggest energy players confirmed an emerging reality. The U.S., Europe, Russia, Australia and Japan all had created modern consumer economies dependent on abundant, cheap fossil-fuel energy. In the 21st century that is no longer viable; the high-carbon growth path is closing.

The reason is cost....

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/06/cheap-coal-is-dead-long-live-renewable-age-part-1


Part 2
June 21, 2012

With oil costing close to $100 a barrel, and most imported Asian coal about $120 a ton, fossil energy costs are crippling emerging economies in Asia and Africa. Although renewable alternatives are far less costly than they were even two years ago, they still can't match the cheap coal and oil that Asia and Africa had counted on.

Fortunately, if Asia and Africa embrace bottom-up renewable strategies, they can restrain energy costs, while leapfrogging dirty energy into the emerging post-fossil global economy. What are bottom-up strategies? They vary based on markets and geography. What they share is a realization that not all electrons are equal; some are worth far more than others, depending, in part, on their proximity to markets. To make a renewable revolution low-cost, countries should roll out solar and wind projects, investing first in those locales where fossil fuels are most expensive.

There are 1.4 billion people without electricity, most of whom aren’t expected to have it for decades. These are the world’s poorest. Counterintuitively, they can best afford the most sophisticated lighting — LED lights powered by off-grid solar panels.

Costly Lighting

The poor already pay a lot for light, mostly from burning kerosene and candles....

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/06/cheap-coal-is-dead-long-live-renewable-age-part-2


Part 3
June 25, 2012

China announced on March 20 that it would raise retail gasoline prices to more than $5 a gallon. Two days later, the government announced its intention to cap consumption of coal at 3.9 billion tons a year, only 10 percent above its current level.

Concern for the environment is not driving these moves. Instead, they are a byproduct of economic fundamentals, including the fact that importing oil at more than $100 a barrel and coal at $125 a ton or more threatens China’s record trade surpluses. Indeed, in the past three years, high prices for imported oil and coal have contributed to three trade deficits in China.


Alarmed by these trends, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called in January for restructuring global oil markets, saying they had “deviated, to a great extent, from the supply-and-demand relations of the real economy.” The premier called on the Group of 20 to establish “just, equitable and binding international rules” to govern the oil trade (an appeal not wildly applauded in the Persian Gulf region where he made it).

Energy politics are riling India, as well....

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/06/cheap-coal-is-dead-long-live-renewable-age-part-3


See also:
Coal Power Loses Its Luster in India as Costs Rise
Posted by OKIsItJustMe at http://www.democraticunderground.com/112720815

26 replies, 4593 views

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Arrow 26 replies Author Time Post
Reply Cheap Coal Is Dead. Long Live Renewable Age (Original post)
kristopher Jul 2012 OP
XemaSab Jul 2012 #1
kristopher Jul 2012 #2
XemaSab Jul 2012 #4
diane in sf Jul 2012 #3
joshcryer Jul 2012 #5
GliderGuider Jul 2012 #6
kristopher Jul 2012 #8
GliderGuider Jul 2012 #9
kristopher Jul 2012 #10
GliderGuider Jul 2012 #11
kristopher Jul 2012 #12
XemaSab Jul 2012 #13
GliderGuider Jul 2012 #15
GliderGuider Jul 2012 #14
joshcryer Jul 2012 #17
GliderGuider Jul 2012 #18
joshcryer Jul 2012 #16
NickB79 Jul 2012 #19
XemaSab Jul 2012 #20
joshcryer Jul 2012 #21
backwoodsbob Jul 2012 #7
joshcryer Jul 2012 #22
Kolesar Jul 2012 #23
hunter Jul 2012 #24
Kolesar Jul 2012 #25
NickB79 Jul 2012 #26

Response to kristopher (Original post)


Response to XemaSab (Reply #1)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 01:14 AM

2. Do you ever understand anything you "read"?

I don't think I've seen a substantive comment from you in years. If all you are here for is to engage in petty personality games, perhaps your time would be better spent elsewhere.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #2)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 02:37 AM

4. WE'RE SCREWED

There. That substantive enough?

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Response to kristopher (Original post)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 02:23 AM

3. Thanks Kris--great articles!

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Response to kristopher (Original post)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 02:52 AM

5. Part one starts off with misinformation.

I don't even have the patience to rebut this nonsense misdirection.

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Response to kristopher (Original post)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 02:41 PM

6. Ya gotta wonder why this is happening, then:

 



In the last decade, the world has added ten times more coal than renewables. You can worship the invisible hand, you can pray for enlightened policies, but in the real world coal is still bitch-slapping renewables. It's why we are still fucked.

Don't keep blowing smoke up our skirts with that obfuscatory Tata quote. The numbers tell the true story.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #6)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 08:04 PM

8. There's a lot of ignorance and misinformation in that post GG

The Chart you've shown supports the the OP, it doesn't refute it. You were equally wrong about "peak oil" and it was for exactly the same reason; a lack of willingness to incorporate proven habits of human behavior into your perspective.

The rule is simple - rising demand (developing nations), limited supply (coal like oil is finite), and available, viable options (renewables) equals a transition away from the resource being stressed (fossil fuels) to the new resource (wind, solar etc).

That is what your chart shows. It does not, as you want to portray it, predicted unending growth for coal. It gives us a picture of how government support for renewables (an anti-invisible hand event) has helped alter the economic dynamics of energy and allowed renewables to recently become economically competitive with fossil fuels.

It is your desire to corrupt the actual significance of what the OP tells us - that we are at a point of transition brought about by the economic situation surrounding global energy - by trying to conflate values free observations made within the parameters of positive economics with the corrupt practice of protecting the status quo by claiming whatever is happening in the market is, by definition, the right thing for humanity.

If I possessed such beliefs as you attribute to me I would reject the idea of government action to promote renewable energy when, (as you are unquestionably aware) I believe and actively promote the idea that all efforts to promote a transition from our present energy system to one built around renewable energy sources should be the #1 policy priority of all governments around the world.

Your real bitch is that you seek to promote nuclear energy and you must therefore try to denigrate anything showing that the window of opportunity for nuclear is closing. Which, in the context of normative economics is an extremely interesting point since support for nuclear power does nothing to change the economic rules of the present system built around the economic strengths of fossil fuels.

You wrote:
In the last decade, the world has added ten times more coal than renewables. You can worship the invisible hand, you can pray for enlightened policies, but in the real world coal is still bitch-slapping renewables. It's why we are still fucked.

Don't keep blowing smoke up our skirts with that obfuscatory Tata quote. The numbers tell the true story.



Positive economics (as opposed to normative economics) is the branch of economics that concerns the description and explanation of economic phenomena. It focuses on facts and cause-and-effect behavioral relationships and includes the development and testing of economics theories. Earlier terms were value-free economics and its German counterpart wertfrei economics.

Positive economics as science, concerns analysis of economic behavior. .... Positive economics ... avoids economic value judgements. For example, a positive economic theory might describe how money supply growth affects inflation, but it does not provide any instruction on what policy ought to be followed.

Still, positive economics is commonly deemed necessary for the ranking of economic policies or outcomes as to acceptability, which is normative economics. Positive economics is sometimes defined as the economics of "what is", whereas normative economics discusses "what ought to be". ...

....

Positive economics usually answers the question "why". To illustrate, an example of a positive economic statement is as follows:
The price of milk has risen from $3 a gallon to $5 a gallon in the past five years.


This is a positive statement because it can be proven true or false by comparison against real-world data. In this case, the statement focuses on facts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_economics


"In this case, the statement focuses on facts" - just as the OP does.


see also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normative_economics

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Response to kristopher (Reply #8)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 08:32 PM

9. So what you're saying seems to be

 

"The economics of the situation may not have restrained coal consumption yet, but it's going to do so any day now."

That's the worship of the invisible hand. It might happen, but it hasn't yet.

This post is just focusing on the facts - the facts of actual coal consumption over the last 11 years. it says nothing about what might happen in the future. I do think that global coal use is going to continue increasing for the next couple of decades, but that's just my opinion. Opinions are overtaken by reality every day. Until that happens, I use the last decade as a guide and expect tomorrow to look broadly like today. When reality does overtake my opinion, as it did with nuclear power and peak oil, I change my opinion.

Regarding Peak Oil, I refer you to the production rates of crude and condensate for the last 7 years, which have not varied by more than a few percent despite the price gyrations. My mistakes were in expecting that we'd see a sharper peak rather than a plateau, and also underestimating the economic impact of the 2008 price spike and the resulting demand destruction.



Your attempt to portray me as a nuclear supporter are funny. I haven't been a nuclear supporter since before Fukushima, and you know it. Your characterization of my position in the absence of any supporting evidence whatsoever is just a lame attempt at a smear.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #9)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 08:38 PM

10. Is that what you believe?

Your frequent dependence on the use of the term "inflection point" would argue that you aren't being completely forthcoming and are instead just saying what is expedient for the moment.
That is a pattern that dominates your posts.

The OP provides far better insight than your (closeted nuclear) screeds.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #10)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 08:51 PM

11. You're reduced to reading my tea leaves.

 

Sorry, my opinions are exactly as I state them. And I hate closets.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #11)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 09:14 PM

12. That too lacks accuracy

You spent several years surreptitiously arguing for nuclear power until you were finally cornered and had to admit that, yes, you do support nuclear power.

Since the collapse of the nuclear revival caused by its soaring costs, the strategy of nuclear proponents has been to go dark and pretend there is no such thing as nuclear power while they focus on undermining public trust in its only real, long term competition - renewable energy.

The immediate economic agent crippling nuclear is natural gas, but according to nuclear executives that is expected to last less than 10 years. Meanwhile the plummeting price of energy from natural sources such as wind and solar, coupled with their rapid expansion of a manufacturing base, poses an existential threat to nuclear. That threat is what is now being focused on by the public outreach machine they have cultivated.

Wittingly or unwittingly you are following that playbook to the letter.

The OP gives a far better understanding of the current situation than anything written in your posts.

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Response to kristopher (Reply #12)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 10:42 PM

13. "The immediate economic agent crippling nuclear is natural gas"

n/t

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Response to XemaSab (Reply #13)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 10:49 PM

15. Well, that gives wind ten years to close the gap, n'est-ce pas? nt

 

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Response to kristopher (Reply #12)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 10:48 PM

14. One thing I've never figured out

 

Is why my opinions matter so much to you.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #14)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 10:50 PM

17. You have a point.

Damn primitivists... who can take them seriously...

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #17)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 11:11 PM

18. Especially when we don't even take ourselves seriously

 

Some of us anyway...

IMO most problems in the world are caused by people who take themselves Seriously. Makes me want to poke their balloons with whatever pin is handy.

And you'll be singing a different tune about primitivists when you're living in a mud hut trying to live on meals of grass and sticks...

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #6)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 10:49 PM

16. The invisible hand, indeed. Tata Group is growing out coal production.

India grapples with coal shortages
Amid India's ongoing domestic coal shortage, Tata Power, the country's largest private power producer, said it is eyeing coal mines abroad for fuel security.

"We are already scouting for coal mines overseas," said Tata Power Executive Director for Operations S Padmanabhan, Press Trust of India reports. He said the company was looking at Indonesia and South Africa for acquisitions.

"Given the demand for the fuel for our power plants and the shortage of domestically produced coal, we have to depend on imports," Padmanabhan said.

The company also aims to produce 50 million metric tons of coal annually by 2020 to ensure fuel security, he said.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #16)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 12:17 AM

19. Damn, they're planning on quintupling coal-generated electricity in the next 8 years!

From your link:

The utility company said it aims to increase its generation capacity to 26 gigawatts by 2020, from the current capacity of 5.2 gigawatts.

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Response to NickB79 (Reply #19)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 12:33 AM

20. You shut your mouth

Renewables are totally going to save us.

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Response to NickB79 (Reply #19)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 05:36 AM

21. Yep, OP is Orwellian double speak.

Tata Group did stop investing in coal plants.

But they're investing in coal mining (coal production).

Cute how that works isn't it?

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Response to kristopher (Original post)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 07:54 PM

7. coal is on a surge worldwide

 

my company builds roof supports for mines and we are on ten hour days trying to keep up with demand.Coal may be down in America do to frakking but make no mistake...coal demand is growing worldwide...to our demise.

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Response to backwoodsbob (Reply #7)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 05:39 AM

22. Yep, and the coal we don't burn we're shipping overseas.

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Response to kristopher (Original post)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 03:20 PM

23. Good to hear from Carl Pope--eom

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Response to Kolesar (Reply #23)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 04:43 PM

24. One might read your post as sarcasm.

If it was my post it would be.

Carl Pope serves our Dark Lord, The Invisible Hand...


This Modern World

The invisible Hand will not save us.



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Response to hunter (Reply #24)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 04:48 PM

25. Go outside and get some fresh air...eom

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Response to Kolesar (Reply #25)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 05:40 PM

26. Mmmm, 400-ppm-of-CO2-and-rising-rapidly fresh air, nice

Makes you forget all about that pesky boom in fossil fuel consumption we're currently experiencing.

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