The War on Clean Coal
By: Paul Fanara
“We have ended the war on American Energy — and we have ended the war on clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world,” Claim President Donald Trump, at the State of the Union.
It’s true; America is an exporter of energy products to the world. The problem is, America’s consumption of energy outpaces the nation’s production, so as a nation we are not self-sustaining energy producers.
The “war on clean coal” is a political term, and a notion proposed exclusively by the current administration. On a global scale, as noted by BP Energy’s Annual Reports, coal production, and consumption has increased over the past 10 years, but environmental regulations strongly adopted by Europe, and the Americas have driven their numbers down. Traditional western nations have decreased by about 30 percent in both production, and consumption of coal since 2006, while nations in the Asia-Pacific have increased their reliance on coal by 60 to 70 percent in the same time period.
Overall, coal is an industry that is fading into the sunset. However, according to the US Energy Information Administration, coal still accounts for about 30 percent of the electricity produced in the United States, while other fossil fuel sources, such as crude oil, and natural gas, account for about 35 percent.
When I say the “war on clean coal” is a political term, I mean just that. It’s a political position being proposed exclusively by the current administration to discredit the development of renewable energy sources, while showing those with an interest in the fossil fuel industries that the government is on their side.
American exports of crude, coal, and other energy products have been booming, and on a steady rise over the past decade, reaching a 45-year high in 2014, as reported by the Council on Foreign Relations. Restrictions such as limitations on crude exports to nations other than Canada were lifted by the Obama administration in 2015. Technological improvements in the extraction of natural gas has allowed the United States to become a net exporter of it. But as the world continues to fight the pollution element of coal as an energy source, the technologies required to protect our environment from both the extraction processes, and burning of coal, have started to make coal a costly resource. Regulations such as Nixon’s Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Obama’s Clean Power Plan, have discouraged the use of coal, and made emission regulations a focus for those who still use coal.
On a global level, including the United States, many nations are reducing their dependence on coal. It isn’t a war. It is simply a necessary change. Energy.gov has reported that renewable resources such as solar, and hydro, are growing rapidly. New technologies are making the capture, storage, and use of solar much more cost-effective, which has resulted in solar energy production to increase over the past decade by over 13 percent annually in the United States, and an upwards of 38 percent annually in other parts of the world. BP’s 2017 annual report shows, in real numbers, that it is the equivalent of saving over 400 million tonnes of crude oil, in solar energy alone.
Most modernized nations are making huge investments into solar, and other renewable power sources. Bloomberg estimates that over $7.4 trillion will be invested into clean-energy globally by 2020, with solar seeing $2.6 trillion of this investment, and an estimated 14-fold increase in global
energy capacity. According to the Solar Energies Industry Association, in the United States, the solar industry employs nearly 260,000 workers; double the number employed by the industry just six years ago. As technology makes solar more efficient, businesses are still making their largest energy investments into solar, and other renewable sources. Here in Buffalo, the Riverbend Tesla plant has begun the production of consumer and commercial Solar Roofing tiles, which will soon be marketed through major contracting retailers such as Home Depot, as announced in their recent press release. The Tesla Corporation is also planning on rolling out professional installation services to accompany these new offerings.
All economic signs point to renewables being the future of energy production. Regardless of the war on clean coal slant the Trump Administration wants to use in order to promote this industry for his political investors; coal is an energy source we would be better off saying good-bye to. Hanging on to such an environmentally hazardous energy source is not only inefficient, but it is downright foolish.