Coal strikes back… in Europe ?

I knew that Germany had plans to build coal fired plants. Little did I know that according to this great article from the IHT other European countries like Italy are willing to do so.

In 1958, I wouldn’t be surprised or anything, but in 2008, with the growing fears of a full scale global warming, I am simply puzzled that somebody even think about it in Europe.

It seems that the low carbon alternatives – renewables, efficiency and nuclear – are disregarded and simply not thought about.

According to Elisabeth Rosenthal, one of the author of the IHT’s business of green blog :

At a time when the world’s top climate experts agree that carbon emissions must be rapidly reduced to hold down global warming, a leading Italian electricity producer, Enel, is converting its massive power plant here from oil to coal, the dirtiest fuel on earth.

Over the next five years, Italy will increase its reliance on coal to 33 percent from 14 percent. Power generated by Enel from coal will rise to 50 percent. And Italy is not alone in its return to coal.

Driven by rising demand, record high oil and natural gas prices, concerns over energy security and an aversion to nuclear energy, European countries are slated to build about 50 coal-fired plants over the next five years, plants that will be in use for the next five decades.

The fast-expanding developing economies of India and China, where coal remains a major fuel source for more than two billion people, have long been regarded as one of the biggest challenges to reducing carbon emissions.

But the return now to coal even in eco-conscious Europe is sowing real alarm among environmentalists who warn that it is setting the world on a disastrous trajectory that will make controlling global warming impossible. They are aghast at the renaissance of coal, a fuel more commonly associated with a sooty Dickens novel and which was on its way out just a decade ago.

(…)”We need a moratorium on coal now,” he added, “with phase out of existing plants over the next two decades.”

Enel, like many electricity companies, says it has little choice but to build coal plants to replace aging infrastructure, particularly in countries like Italy, which prohibit nuclear power. Fuel costs have risen 151 percent since 1996, and Italians pay the highest electricity costs in Europe.

(…) “In order to get over oil, which is getting more and more expensive, our plan is to convert all oil plants to coal using clean-coal technologies,” Gianfilippo Mancini, Enel’s head of generation and energy management, said. “This will be the cleanest coal plant in Europe. We are hoping to prove that is will be possible to make sustainable and environmentally friendly use of coal.”

(…) In the meantime, new coal plants will be spewing more green house gas emissions into the atmosphere than ever before, meaning that current climate predictions – dire as they are – may still be “too optimistic,” he said. “They assume the old energy mix even though coal will be a larger and larger part.” (…)

I simply don’t understand anything. The European Union wants to be at the forefront of the climate change mitigation and yet still allows its country members to build new coal-fired plants.

Coal is by very far the most polluting and worst solution of all. Twice more greenhouse gas intensive than natural gas, it emits on average thirty times more than renewable energies and fifty more times than nuclear. (see article in French for more details)

We already have the technology, and if nuclear is a problem, let us seriously think of energy efficiency and conservation.

It works, it’s cheap, and any single person or company can do it. (see efficiency tagged articles for more details)

Then comes renewable energies. They work and do a great job. OK, they aren’t as inexpensive as they should be right now, but with great national plans to boost them ( like in Germany… ) they may replace some coal fired plants.

And seriously, fearing nuclear, as we face climate change… There are much more probabilities that climate change will displace or even kill millions of people by the end of the 21st century than a nuclear plant blowing up.

To me coal-fired plants are so much 19th century that I don’t simply understand that somebody in Europe in the 21st century plans to build some of them. What about you ?

3 thoughts on “Coal strikes back… in Europe ?”

  1. I don’t understand neither why they come back to coal. You say coal-fired plants are so much 19th. Don’t know if it’s really 19th, but I see them as 60s USSR or China. And polluting black mines.

  2. well, it’s about Dickens as Ms Rosenthal says. And basically, it was the first solution to provide huge quantities of electricity. That’s why…

    Ands thanks for your comment my friend ! 🙂

    I edit this to tell you that coal fired plants still account for 22 % of the world energy mix. So, even now they remain a major energy source. For your information, nuclear accounts for only seven percent and renewables for thirteen percent. (more on this)

  3. Pingback: Global Warming » Coal strikes back… in Europe ?

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