Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Dots Are Starting To Connect Faster Than Expected -- July 29, 2017


August 6, 2017: A reader sent me a fascinating New York Times article: "Under Trump, coal mining gets new life on US lands."

I thought I had already posted a similar story at an earlier post. I will update that post and bring it here -- it's that fascinating to me. There are some important "things" converging:
  • first, the switch to global EVs cannot occur without coal; at the end of the day, EVs are coal-powered cars. Period. Dot
  • second, a third Obama term (aka the Hillary debacle) would have stopped the coal resurgence in its tracks
  • third, Trump has been in office ... T+196 days
  • fourth, the press is fascinate with presidential tweets -- the really big stories are happening in his departments -- like the Department of Interior; Department of Energy; Department of Homeland Security
From The New York Times' article:
The Obama administration, he said, had become intent on killing the coal industry, and had used federal lands as a cudgel to restrict exports. The only avenues of growth currently, given the shutdown of so many coal-burning power plants in the United States, are markets overseas.

“Their goal, in collusion with the environmentalists, was to drive us out of the export business,” Mr. Reavey said.

Even with the moves so far, the prospect of coal companies operating in a big way on federal land — and for any major job growth — is dim, in part because environmentalists have blocked construction of a coal export terminal, and there is limited capacity at the port the companies use in Vancouver.

Competition from other global suppliers offering coal to Asian power plants is also intense.

But at least for now, coal production and exports are rising in the Powder River Basin after a major decline last year.
There's plenty of coal in non-federal land for now. 

Original Post
When you  -- or rather, if you -- read the previous two posts on coal, just think how much has changed.

First, the links to the previous two posts (over time, things will get lost):
Now, back to the original thought -- just think how much has changed.

First, President Trump sees the hypocrisy of the "Paris accords" and does the right thing by letting the world know that the US will no longer participate in such nonsense.

Second, the Obama war on coal has been reversed, in less than six months. I find that absolutely incredible. And it's just getting started.

Third, it is becoming clear that European reliance on coal (or natural gas) is going to increase rather than decrease as forecast ... and it appears it's going to happen much faster than we expected.

Fourth, and this is really interesting ... does anyone remember this post:
  • France plans to close a significant number of nuclear plants, saying it doesn't want to become overly dependent on nuclear energy (German and US engineers hold that card) and, apparently, would rather become overly dependent on Qatar natural gas instead
" ... France plans to close a significant number of nuclear plants, saying it doesn't want to become overly dependent on nuclear energy..."

That was buried in a very long note. I honestly did not understand that. It made no sense. "Overly dependent on nuclear energy"? What was that all about? Nuclear energy was France's "only hope." If they shut down nuclear plants, they have only two choices: CO2-emitting natural gas or huge CO2-emitting coal. Wow.

Now, it becomes clear. In that first linked article, this little gem on which Reuters did not elaborate:
France had suffered a series of nuclear power plant outages that required it and regional neighbors to rely more heavily on coal
Yes, that was in the Reuters article.

Of course, it begs the question: what caused the series of nuclear power plant outages in France? Russian hacking? Homer Simpsons (plural)? Aging plants and no money (or political will) to modernize? 

And note that the nuclear power plant outages didn't affect only France but also the neighboring countries that rely on that energy.

So, when France cuts back on nuclear energy, they also cut back on the surplus electricity being sold to other countries, and .... well, it doesn't take a nuclear scientist to connect the next dots.

Six months into the Trump presidency.

We've only just begun.

Don't forget this: EVs run on coal. Period. Dot. Or maybe natural gas where natural gas is in abundance, but in most of the world (and in most of the US) EVs run on coal. Connect these dots:
  • England is a net energy importer (or very nearly; some winters England has come within 48 hours of running out of coal; January 13, 2017: Europe close to running out of coal, natural gas, energy due to cold snap caused by global warming)
  • France had to increase coal imports because of a series of nuclear power plant outages
  • neither England nor Europe has plans for any expected change in home-grown energy production (France bans fracking; I can't foresee a fracking revolution in Yorkshire)
  • EVs run on coal (not crude oil)
  • France and Britain have both said they will ban gasoline cars by 2040
  • if they don't have enough coal to power their countries now, imagine what happens when they go to coal-powered cars
Even forgetting about the electrical grid and charging infrastructure that will be required, it appears that no one has really thought any of this through.

And finally, just so we don't forget, the UK plans to phase out all coal by 2025. From the Torvald Klaveness post:
The biggest looser (sic) this year in terms of negative growth in coal imports is without doubt the UK.
Total coal imports in first half-2016 of 4.9Mt is down a massive 71% from the 16.9Mt imported in the same period last year. The U.K.’s taxation system is disfavoring coal compared to gas and the UK government has committed themselves to phase out coal by 2025. We therefore expect the UK volumes to continue to be very low going forward. There are seven remaining coal-fired power plants in the UK today.
That was written less than a year ago (the writer only had data through first half of 2016). What happened since then:
United Kingdom (aka Great Britain, includes England): 175% increase in US coal shipments  
Torvald finished his October 29, 2016, post with this:
However, the positive news from a seaborne trade perspective is that the majority of import cuts are already behind us. The current low base means that any further fall in import will only have a marginal negative impact on global trade.
Wow, not only "kinda wrong" but really, really wrong. 

I track "Europe at a tipping point" as one of "The Big Stories."

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