If a recent article in the Washington Post is any indication, the Obama administration may feel pressure from the greens to crack down even harder on American coal, especially given news regarding Germany’s increasing reliance on this fuel. Germany is currently harnessing lignite, or brown coal, to offset its reduced reliance on nuclear power. The Post’s Michael Birnbaum worries that this may lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
“Now, U.S. coal is spreading around the world instead, pushing down global prices,” writes Birnbaum. “In Europe, that has raised fears among environmentalists that the cheap natural gas in the United States has simply led to higher overall fossil fuel consumption.”
Economically, it appears that natural gas abundance in the U.S. has led to cheaper coal in America, and, therefore, higher coal exports. Europe, which is experiencing a shortage of energy, is buying up the surplus coal. “Green-friendly Europe has a dirty secret: It is burning a lot more coal,” writes Birnbaum.
“The new dependence on one of the dirtiest fuels shows just how challenging it is to maintain the momentum needed to go green, analysts and officials say, and demonstrates the far-reaching effects of America’s natural gas boom,” he writes.
“U.S. coal exports to Europe were up 26 percent in the first nine months of 2012 over the same period in 2011,” Birnbaum reports. “Exports to China have increased, too.” As climate change supporters are wont to do, however, the reporter complains about this new source of cheap energy simply because it undermines greenhouse emissions-cutting goals.
Christopher Horner, author of The Liberal War on Transparency, noted in a recent interview with Roger Aronoff, of Accuracy in Media, that he believes that President Obama will likely hold up Germany as a model country for the green movement. “[Obama’s] not going to say ‘Look at Spain’ anymore, he’s going to say, ‘Look at Germany,’” asserted Horner. “We’re prepared for that.”
“Germany’s collapsing; 800,000 Germans sit in the cold and the dark right now because they can’t afford to pay their electricity bills,” continued Horner.
One might think, under the circumstances, a little extra cheap coal might be a boon for the German population. “For now, confronted with a glut of newly available fossil fuel, environmentalists are trying to decide whether it’s best to try to keep it underground,” writes Birnbaum.
“Demand for coal in Germany has been rising since a May 2011 move to phase out nuclear power by 2022,” he writes. “But nuclear energy, which is low in greenhouse gas emissions, has been partially replaced by brown coal. Lignite supplied 25.6 percent of Germany’s electricity in 2012, up from 22.7 percent in 2010. Hard black coal supplied an additional 19.1 percent last year, and it was also on the rise.”
Spain isn’t immune to the economic pressure, either. “Consumption of coal also has leapt in Spain and Italy, with much of it supplied by the United States. That comes despite extensive efforts to harness Spain’s sun and Italy’s wind in the name of power production. Consumers, slammed by sky-high unemployment, have been particularly sensitive to energy prices.”