Post contributed by Cowan’s Client Services Team Leader Elisa Edkin Proctor.

Coal mining

Why are so-called ‘green countries” making a return to coal?

Despite naysayers, coal is still the most abundant, efficient, easily mass produced and low cost energy generation fuel around today. At present nothing can compare.  Yes, there is always room for cleaner ways to generate energy such as solar, hydro, biomass or nuclear, and they may one day even have a greater market share than coal, but at present the renewables are a distant second. They can’t match the economics, efficiency or reliability of coal (with the possible exception of nuclear) and they are not capturing the energy market anywhere near as fast as people had hoped.

For many years activists such as Greenpeace have been pounding the web with the evils of Coal. Their accusations range from “Coal fueling global warming” and “Coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels” to the “largest single source of global warming pollution in the world is coal”.  The claim is that currently one-third of all CO2 emissions comes from burning coal. The argument is that Coal is not clean and governments have been seduced by the illusion of carbon-free coal which Greenpeace suggests technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is simply false hope.

So what is the real future of coal?

Lest we forget the other main use of coal : steel production; currently the only commercially viable process to produce steel utilises cooking coal. Cooking coal consumption around the world is in excess of one billion tonnes per year.

Other uses are only just being explored so potentially the use of coal could significantly expand from what it is today. From the World Coal Association  we already know coal can be used to generate oil, industrial gases.   Coal or coal by-products are also used in soaps, aspirins, solvents, dyes, nylon, plastics, activated carbon, carbon fibre and silicon metal; just to name a few products.

Coal is a part of our daily lives and consumption. It creates industry and therefore creates jobs around the globe. It fuels our economy and offers an inexpensive, stable source of energy (which happens to fuel 56% of energy in the USA alone), and there have been tremendous strides in mining and burning coal.

What are your thoughts on Coal? Are you for or against it’s use? Leave your comments in the section below.

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