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The U.S. Coal Export Boom to Asia

 

 

By Jude Clemente


October 8, 2018 - There are many, many falsehoods out there about coal. The biggest, of course, is that "coal is dead," an organized effort to scare away potential investors of the world's most vital source of electricity. Indeed, the reality is quite different than what some insist that you believe. In fact, coal is still the main source of power in a leading 18 U.S. states, and still supplies almost 30% of American power. " Does that sound like an energy source that is...."dead?"


Globally, coal is even more alive. "Think the Big Banks Have Abandoned Coal? Think Again." Even a solar magazine admits: "China to add 259 GW of coal capacity, satellite imagery shows." For reference, 259 GW is more than twice the amount of power capacity that mighty Texas has FROM ALL SOURCES.

 


Now Asia - which accounts for close to 80% of total global coal usage - is increasingly turning to the U.S. to supply coal. We are still the world's third largest coal producer. The U.S. supplies both types, met coal to produce steel and steam coal to produce electricity. "U.S. coal exports increased by 61% in 2017 as exports to Asia more than doubled."


The U.S. has a 360-year supply of coal to bolster our expanding export market. The trade war with the U.S. however, could have China looking to expand domestic supply, and the country's coal production caps have been found to be "technically infeasible."


The fact is that both China (65%) and India (75%) are hugely dependent upon coal-based electricity, which will be needed in even bigger quantities to lift their low Human Development Index closer to those in the West, where universal electricity access has more people living better and longer. Can you really blame them? "The Statistical Connection Between Electricity and Human Development."


With steady 6-8% annual economic growth, however, the overwhelming reliance of these two nations on their domestic coal resource is unsustainable. For example, China accounts for just 13% of global coal reserves but 51% of consumption. China's coal imports overall are at four-year highs. "India will be using and importing more coal," and the country has a coordinated strategy  to specifically use coal from foreign nations because of its higher calorific value


State-owned Coal India Limited, however, already accounting for over 80% of domestic output, wants to raise production from 630 million tonnes next year to a staggering 1,000 Mt by 2020. Production in the first four months of this year was up 14% year-over-year and then another 11% since.


The reality, “Coal to be India's energy mainstay for next 30 years,” versus the myth, "Cheap renewable energy is killing India’s coal-based power plants."


The anti-coal business, of course, might not want to hear any of these realities. But, there is great news that everybody must appreciate. Both China and India are leading the world to cleaner coal, displacing small, inefficient plants with massive, highly efficient ones, namely supercritical and ultra-supercritical units. The International Energy Agency has been very supportive of these efforts.


Indeed, "the world cannot keep ignoring the Asian coal story."