Australia Vows To Sell Coal ‘For Decades’

People participate in a rally during a global day of action on climate change in Melbourne on November 6, 2021, as world leaders attend the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. William WEST / AFP
People participate in a rally during a global day of action on climate change in Melbourne on November 6, 2021, as world leaders attend the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.
William WEST / AFP

 

Australia said Monday it will sell coal for “decades into the future” after spurning a pact to phase out the polluting fossil fuel to halt catastrophic climate change.

More than 40 countries pledged to eliminate coal use within decades during the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, which aims to cap the warming of Earth since the Industrial Revolution to between 1.5 and 2.0 degrees Celsius.

Australia, along with some other major coal users such as China and the United States, did not sign up.

“We have said very clearly we are not closing coal mines and we are not closing coal-fired power stations,” Australian Minister for Resources Keith Pitt told national broadcaster ABC.

READ ALSO: Climate Crisis Could Give Nuclear Energy A Second Wind

Defending Australia’s decision, Pitt said Australia had some of the world’s highest quality coal.

“And that is why we will continue to have markets for decades into the future. And if they’re buying… well, we are selling.”

Demand for coal is expected to rise until 2030, the minister claimed.

“If we aren’t to win that market, somebody else will,” Pitt added.

“I would much rather it be Australia’s high-quality product, delivering Australian jobs and building Australia’s economy than coming from Indonesia or Russia or elsewhere.”

Australia is one of the world’s largest producers of coal and natural gas, but has also suffered under increasingly extreme climate-fuelled droughts, floods and bushfires in recent years.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government unveiled last month a 2050 net-zero emissions target but the plan was criticised for lacking detail and relying heavily on as-yet-unknown technological breakthroughs.

The Minerals Council of Australia, which represents large miners such as BHP and Rio Tinto, has said a 2050 target is achievable through significant investment in technology.

Pitt said some 300,000 Australians’ jobs were reliant on the coal sector. The Minerals Council of Australia itself says the coal industry directly employs 50,000 workers while supporting another 120,000 jobs.

Major mining groups such as BHP say they are exiting the most polluting fossil fuels.

In its latest divestment, BHP announced Monday it had sold its 80 percent stake in a metallurgical coal mine in the eastern state of Queensland to Stanmore Resources for at least US$1.2 billion.

“As the world decarbonises, BHP is sharpening its focus on producing higher quality metallurgical coal sought after by global steelmakers to help increase efficiency and lower emissions,” BHP head of Australian mining Edgar Basto said in a statement.

AFP

China Orders Mines To Up Coal Production By Nearly 100m Tonnes

(FILES) This file photo taken on November 20, 2015 shows Chinese flags next to a worker clearing a conveyer belt used to transport coal, near a coal mine at Datong, in China's northern Shanxi province.
This file photo taken on November 20, 2015 shows Chinese flags next to a worker clearing a conveyer belt used to transport coal, near a coal mine at Datong, in China’s northern Shanxi province. AFP

 

Chinese authorities have ordered dozens of coal mines to expand production amid a nationwide energy crunch, state media reported Friday.

Dozens of mines in China’s Inner Mongolia, a major coal producing region, were instructed to increase their capacity by more than 98 million tonnes in an official notice not released to the public, the state-run Securities Times reported.

Nearly 60 percent of China’s energy-hungry economy is fuelled by coal, and the country has struggled to wean itself from the fuel despite its pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060.

China has been hit by widespread power cuts that have forced factories to delay production as businesses are ordered to minimize energy usage.

Record coal prices, state electricity price controls and tough emissions targets have combined to squeeze the power supply, pushing over a dozen provinces and regions to announce curbs on energy usage in recent months.

The 72 mines in Inner Mongolia were asked to “accelerate the release” of production capacity, the official Securities Times said, citing the current supply crunch as a likely factor behind the order.

China’s coal supply has been disrupted by the pandemic, under pressure from tough emissions targets and squeezed by a drop in coal imports exacerbated by a trade tiff with Australia.

Earlier this month, coal prices hit a record high.

Meanwhile China’s power needs in the first half of the year exceeded pre-pandemic levels, according to the National Energy Administration, as demand for factory goods picked up with the rest of the world emerging from Covid lockdowns.

Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng had recently warned fuel companies to make sure there is enough fuel to keep the country running, according to Bloomberg News.

AFP

Trump Administration Moves To Relax Coal Pollution Rules

US President Donald Trump speaks on immigration laws before the National Space Council meeting in the East Room of the White House on June 18, 2018 in Washington,DC.
Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday announced a plan to weaken regulations on US coal plants, giving a boost to an industry that former leader Barack Obama had hoped to wind down in order to cut harmful emissions that drive global warming.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule would allow states the flexibility to set their own standards for performance at existing coal-fired power plants, rather than follow a single federal standard.

The EPA says it is designed to replace Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan which called for cuts to greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and a shift toward solar, wind, and less polluting natural gas.

The move marks the latest effort by Trump’s administration to roll back the environmental legacy of his Democratic predecessor, having pulled out of the 2015 Paris climate accord aimed at slashing global fossil fuel emissions.

Obama’s energy plan aimed to usher in the strictest anti-pollution measures in history on power plants but was put on hold in 2016 by the US Supreme Court.

Trump, whose ascent to the presidency effectively killed off the plan, had blasted it “intrusive” and claimed it would “kill jobs.”

The president is due to trumpet the new plan as he rallies supporters Tuesday night in the coal-producing state of West Virginia.

“The era of top-down, one-size-fits-all federal mandates is over,” said EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, in a phone call with reporters.

The new plan could take months or even years to take effect. Legal challenges are already lining up, as the proposal awaits a 60-day comment period before it can be finalized.

Environmental advocates blasted the proposal, saying it will boost emissions from power plants, which emit about 28 per cent of US greenhouse gases and worsen global warming.

“The plan calls for only modest efficiency improvements at individual power plants, which will barely make a dent in cutting heat-trapping emissions from the electricity sector, and could even, under some circumstances, lead to increased emissions depending on how much the plants are run,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“This proposal would also result in more pollution from nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and other harmful pollutants.”

Coal in decline

The White House said in a statement that if finalized, the rule “will significantly decrease bureaucratic red tape and compliance costs, keeping American energy affordable and competitive on the world stage.”

The White House claimed it would also save $6.4 billion in compliance costs for industry, compared to the Obama plan.

“We’re the only country in the world doing this, looking at coal as the future instead of understanding the future is about clean air, the future is about clean energy,” Gina McCarthy, the former EPA administrator under Obama, said on CNN.

Despite Trump’s support for coal plants, they continue to shut down. Some 40 per cent of coal plants in operation in 2010 are now closed or slated for closure, according to estimates from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

According to Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, “EPA is now proposing a plan that will essentially be ignored by most of the industry.”

Bill Wehrum, administrator for EPA’s office of Air and Radiation, acknowledged that the industry “continues to transform in front of our eyes,” he told reporters.

“What we see is an ongoing significant shift in the direction of natural gas and renewable energy generation.”

Wehrum said that because of the shifting energy landscape, he expected emissions to fall at a rate “roughly comparable” to the goals outlined under the Obama-era plan, which called for a 26 per cent cut in greenhouse gases from power plants by 2025, compared to 2005 levels.

Climate Activists Protest, Ask Governments To Shut Coal Power Plants

Demonstrators take part in a so-called Climate March against fossil-based energy like coal on November 4, 2017, in Bonn, western Germany. / AFP PHOTO / SASCHA SCHUERMANN

Thousands of demonstrators converged on Bonn Saturday ahead of UN climate negotiations demanding that governments step up action to halt global warming, starting with a rapid phase-out of coal-burning power plants.

Decked out in red to signify their “Stop Coal” campaign, the protesters chanted slogans and beat drums as they snaked through the former West Germany capital toward the UN centre that will host the 12-day, 196-nation talks, tasked with implementing the landmark Paris Agreement.

Police did not estimate crowd size, but noted that organizers put the figure at more than 20,000.

Inked outside the French capital in 2015, the world’s only climate treaty calls for capping global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and 1.5 C (2.7 F) if possible.

Earth has already warmed by 1 C compared to pre-industrial levels.

“The lives and livelihoods of millions of people are under threat, entire island states are in danger of disappearing from rising sea-levels,” a coalition of more than 100 civil society groups said in a statement ahead of the march.

“Tackling climate change means a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels, including the burning of coal.”

Coal accounts for roughly a third of global energy consumption, and powers 40 percent of all electricity — twice as much as the next energy source, natural gas.

Compared to gas and oil, coal produces more carbon pollution per unit of energy, making it the “dirtiest” of the fossil fuels.

Coal demand has slowed, especially in the United States where the natural gas fracking boom has undercut its market share.

But globally, demand is projected to expand until at least 2030, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

That growth seriously threatens the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals, UN and energy experts say.

– ‘We have to try’ –

If the world’s nearly 7,000 coal-fired power plants — with a combined capacity of nearly 2,000 Gigawatts — operate to the end of their lifetimes, it will add the equivalent of five years’ of global CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, the UN’s environment agency noted in a report last week.

Another 850 GW of coal capacity is either under construction or in the pipeline, mostly in India, China, Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam and other Asian countries.

Under pressure, the coal industry is banking on so-called clean coal technologies, especially one known as “carbon capture and storage,” or CCS, that isolates CO2 as energy is being produced and socks it away underground.

So far, despite decades of development, CCS has failed to materialise at scale. But proponents are hopeful that US President Donald Trump — a “clean coal” booster — will speed its deployment.

“It is very encouraging to hear a president talk positively about the role of cleaner coal technology,” Benjamin Sporton, CEO of the World Coal Association, based in London, told AFP earlier this year.

Solar and wind energy — while growing rapidly — still only account for a tiny sliver of global energy production.

According to a study published last week in Environmental Research Letters, holding sea level rise to 50 centimetres (20 inches) by 2100 would become nearly impossible if coal-fired energy is not phased out by mid-century.

“If emissions continue unchecked, oceans could rise by around 130 cm in 2100” — nearly double the maximum forecast in the UN climate science panel’s benchmark report, co-author Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told AFP.

For small island nations, and those with densely populated low-lying deltas such as Bangladesh, sea level rise on that scale would be catastrophic, experts say.

That is the hard-to-ignore message that Fiji, presiding this year over the annual climate summit, intends to drive home at every opportunity.

“We can count on Fiji to apply pressure on the major emitting countries in a way they will feel it,” Laurence Tubiana, director of the European Climate Foundation and one of the main architects of the Paris Agreement as France’s Climate Ambassador, told AFP.

“It is the only thing we can do,” said Sabine from nearby Cologne, when asked why she and her two daughters, 16 and 8, had joined the protest.

“I don’t know if it will change anything, but we have to try.”

AFP

FG Partners South African Firm To Revamp Coal Industry

FG Partners South African Firm To Revamp Coal IndustryThe Federal Government says it has finalised plans with South African investors to commence mining operations at the abandoned coal mines in Enugu State, South-East Nigeria.

The Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, Mr Osita Okechukwu, disclosed this when he led a delegation from a South African firm, Simang Group on a visit to Enugu State.

He said the development was in fulfilment of the promises made by President Muhammad Buhari to Nigerians in the South-East, to revamp the coal sector for power generation.

“President Muhammadu Buhari said he commences the promise he made to Ndigbo on January 10, 2015, that he is going to revamp Enugu coal to generate electricity and employment.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria, after a thorough survey, decided to give the job to Simang group,” said Okechukwu.

He further called on the State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to partner with the group for smooth and effective service delivery.

Governor Ugwuanyi assured the delegation that the State government would give the needed support to achieve the success of the project.

He expressed optimism that the development would address power issues, boost economic activities and create jobs for the people of the state.

Dangote To Invest 53bn Naira In Nasarawa State

Dangote, NasarawaPresident of Dangote Group, Mr Aliko Dangote, is set to invest 53 billion Naira in rice, sugar cane and coal production in Nasarawa State.

The Managing Director, Dangote Sugar Company, Mr Abdullahi Sule, who represented the Nigerian billionaire, disclosed the investment plan to journalists on Saturday.

He was speaking after an aerial survey of the proposed investment sites in Nasarawa State, north-central Nigeria.

Mr Sule expressed optimism that the projects, if completed, would generate jobs for over 20,000 people.

On his part, Governor Tanko Al-Makura described the investment as a timely one.

He expressed hope that it would go in line with the diversification policy of the Federal Government.

FG Seeks Partnership To Harness Solid Minerals

Solid Minerals-Kayode FayemiThe Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, says Nigeria can generate five trillion Naira annually ‎from mining and exporting of its vast solid mineral deposits.

Dr. Fayemi made the observation while in a meeting with other experts on Friday at the third Dr. John Agboola Odeyemi Lecture held at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Ile-Ife, Osun State.

He expressed hope that the development would be accompanied with several multiplier effects on job creation and social infrastructure in various states across Nigeria.

The Minister added that Nigeria’s potentially most beneficial solid minerals such as: limestone, coal, diatomite, gold and silver among others were spread around the country.

He said it was necessary for the Federal, State and Local governments to partner with private investors, to harness the resources and turn it to a win-win situation for the nation.

In his speech at the event, Dr. Agboola, who was marking his 77th birthday, could not agree less with the Minister.

Other speakers at the event tagged ‘Harnessing Our Natural and Cultural Heritage for National Development’, were ‎the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the Chairman of the occasion, Professor John Alo and a representative of the Vice Chancellor of OAU, Professor Omolayo Ajayi.

Miners Urges Buhari To Revive Solid Mineral Sector

Mining-of-solid-mineralWhile Nigerians await a new federal cabinet, miners under the Progressive Miners Empowerment Association have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to take urgent steps to revive the solid minerals sector.

At a media briefing in Abuja on Saturday, the National President of the association, Mr Sunday Ekozien, said a group of miners had taken hold of the sector to the detriment of the nation’s economy.

Mr Ekozien, who is a former National Chairman of the Mining Association of Nigeria, urged the Federal Government to unravel and remove the cartel which he said had roots in the ministry.precious-Stone

Nigeria has paid little attention to the solid mineral sector since it generates its revenue mainly from sales of crude oil.

Solid minerals

Nigeria is richly endowed with a variety of solid minerals of various categories ranging from precious metals to various stones and also industrial minerals such as barytes ,gypsum, kaolin and marble.

Much of these are yet to be exploited.

Power Sector Owners Yet To Invest For Better Performance – Barth Nnaji

Barth NnajiA former Minister of Power, Barth Nnaji, on Wednesday called on investors in Nigeria’s power sector to start investing, to improve the quality of service and deliver better power supply to the citizens as that was the reason the government sold the infrastructure to them.

According to Mr Nnaji, one of the keynote speakers at the 7th Lagos Economic Summit (EHINGBETI 2014) said the new owners “invested to purchase but they haven’t invested to improve.” He said this while appearing on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily.

Mr Nnaji mentioned that rapid investment is one key issue and the companies that purchased the distribution and generation companies must invest quickly because “that’s the whole essence of the privatization.”

He added that the privatization process would be meaningless unless those companies actually deliver on what they signed on to, which is, “they must invest to improve efficiency of collection and the network for distribution companies. Those who purchased generation companies must invest to lift the generation figures. ”

The Federal Government had assured Nigerians that the reforms made in the power sector would put an end to epileptic power supply experienced in many parts of the country but many still complain of poor service.

On this Nnaji said the performance growth in the sector should have been incremental and that the investors would need to replace a lot of dilapidated transformers, lines as well as install connection systems, prepaid meters to satisfy the demand for electricity.

He said, the time it would take citizens to feel the impact of the privatization process would vary depending on the area, noting that it would take about a year for those in Lagos to feel the changes.

He disclosed that there were generating plants in Lagos which only require gas to deliver power as quickly as possible. He mentioned that vandalism was playing a huge role on the unavailability of gas and that the infrastructure needs more investment and monitoring systems to ensure better delivery.

When asked about the possibilities of hydro power, Nnaji said “Hydro has a limit. After Mambilla and Zungaru (power plants), there’s really no other big hydro that we are working on so we have to understand that as a country.

Nnaji, who said that the success of Nigeria’s power sector would have to come from gas fired plants and coal fired plants, noted that there were large deposits of coal in Enugu, Benue, Kogi and Gombe States.

He mentioned that the large economies of the world including America and China were using coal-fired plants to generate up to 60 percent of their power despite the negative implications to the environment.

“So people can’t tell Nigeria, you should be very clean and be tree-huggers here, while they are powering their economy with coal. It’s just unacceptable. I think (in) Nigeria, we have to willfully go about this and invest in coal-fired plants.”

He defended his position on Nigeria using coal despite the implications to environmental health, stating that the coal quality in Nigeria is better that in many other countries. The coal has no sulfur and has high calorific value and so not “great pollutants” to the environment.