Energy Blog

Energy Blog

US Chamber of Commerce Blog

Sean Hackbarth A coal-fired electric power plan in Datong, China.A coal-fired electric power plan in Datong, China. Photo credit: Stefen Chow/Bloomberg.

Two stories about coal use in Asia highlight the futility of EPA’s efforts to reduce global carbon emissions by straightjacketing the U.S. economy with draconian carbon regulations.

First, there’s The New York Times story that China has been using more coal than anyone thought:

China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, according to newly released data. The finding could complicate the already difficult efforts to limit global warming.

Even for a country of China’s size, the scale of the correction is immense. The sharp upward revision in official figures means that China has released much more carbon dioxide — almost a billion more tons a year according to initial calculations — than previously estimated.

The increase alone is greater than the whole German economy emits annually from fossil fuels.

The new data, which appeared recently in an energy statistics yearbook published without fanfare by China’s statistical agency, show that coal consumption has been underestimated since 2000, and particularly in recent years. The revisions were based on a census of the economy in 2013 that exposed gaps in data collection, especially from small companies and factories.

Illustrating the scale of the revision, the new figures add about 600 million tons to China’s coal consumption in 2012 — an amount equivalent to more than 70 percent of the total coal used annually by the United States.


To borrow from the management mantra, "You can't manage what you can't measure."

China has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions from a peak level “around” 2030--assuming anyone knows how much is being produced by then.  However, this pledge isn’t anything exceptional. It’s “little more than business as usual,” writes the Institute for 21st Century Energy’s Stephen Eule. “In other words, the Chinese have committed to doing what they are doing already.”


The second story is that Asia’s appetite coal for it isn’t letting up [h/t GWPF]:

While much attention has been given to a potential peak in China's coal demand and worries about emissions, in Asia alone this year power companies are building more than 500 coal-fired plants, with at least a thousand more on planning boards. Coal is not only cheaper than natural gas, it is often available locally and has no heavy import costs.

"Electricity is increasing its share in total energy consumption and coal is increasing its share in power generation," said Laszlo Varro, head of the gas, coal and power markets division for the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Some of the biggest growth in coal use is in India, where it meets 45 percent of total energy demand, compared with just over 20 percent each for petroleum products and biomass/waste.

"We're absolutely sure India's coal demand will continue to grow," Varro said.

Coal will continue to be used in developing countries because it’s a cheap source of electricity. To think U.S. negotiators at upcoming climate talks in Paris will be able to convince China and India to abstain from using cheap energy to better the lives of their citizens is living in a fantasy world.

These facts won't stop the Obama administration from touting EPA's Clean Power Plan as the United States' key contribution to the Paris talks. For them it's full speed ahead to push aside cheap and abundant coal as a source of electricity no matter the costs to our economy.

As Eule writes:

What’s more of a mystery is why the administration is content to throw away the United States’ energy edge in favor of an agreement that will put us at a competitive disadvantage for no discernible environmental impact. In fact, when other nations choose not to impose carbon restrictions as stringent as those in the U.S., we will be likely to see “carbon leakage,” where emissions are not reduced at all, and instead simply moved (along with the jobs that come with them) to our global competitors.

Sean Hackbarth Four oil pumpjacks operate outside Williston, N.D.Four oil pumpjacks operate outside Williston, N.D. Photo credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.

Those currently in office and those seeking it, take notice: Energy issues matter to voters, a poll from the American Petroleum Institute finds.

Across the partisan spectrum, there’s strong support for developing U.S. oil and natural gas. Overall, 79% support increased production. For Democrats, it’s 70%; for Republicans, it’s 90%; and for Independents it’s 77%.

oil_natgas_production_support_party_800px.jpg American Petroleum Institute Fall 2015 poll on oil and natural gas support. American Petroleum Institute Fall 2015 poll on oil and natural gas support.Source: American Petroleum Institute.

That strong support could translate into success on Election Day. 71% of voters said they’d be more likely to support a candidate that’s pro-energy development.

candidate_support_party_800px.jpg American Petroleum Institute Fall 2015 poll on oil and natural gas support. Voters support pro-energy candidates. American Petroleum Institute Fall 2015 poll on oil and natural gas support. Voters support pro-energy candidates.Source: American Petroleum Institute.

At a panel discussion on API’s poll results Rob Engstrom, U.S. Chamber senior vice president and national political director said, “There will be a moment in the next few years when there can be compromise on energy.” That’s apparent from consensus found in the poll data.

Going into some policy specifics, the poll finds that 61% support exporting some U.S. oil and natural gas to U.S. allies.

support_exports_800px.jpg American Petroleum Institute Fall 2015 poll on oil and natural gas support. Voters support oil and natural gas exports. American Petroleum Institute Fall 2015 poll on oil and natural gas support. Voters support oil and natural gas exports.Source: American Petroleum Institute.

It's a reminder to Members of Congress that they shouldn’t fear ending the 40-year-old ban and allowing oil to be treated like any other American export. It would boost domestic energy production, be good for economic growth, and not raise gas prices.

On offshore development, the administration's regulatory efforts to lock out energy-rich areas like the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Gulf of Mexico run counter to public opinion. Support offshore drilling stands at 64%. 

support_offshore_800px.jpg American Petroleum Institute Fall 2015 poll on oil and natural gas support. Voters support offshore drilling. American Petroleum Institute Fall 2015 poll on oil and natural gas support. Voters support offshore drilling.Source: American Petroleum Institute.

As for the awful idea of stopping energy development on federal lands, the poll doesn’t find much stomach for it. In fact, 53% of those polled think the federal government doesn't do enough to encourage domestic oil and natural gas development.

86% think increased access could create jobs. 85% think increased access could improve America’s energy security. 84% think increased access could grow the economy. 78% think increased access could lower energy costs.

Mark Green at API sums up the poll’s findings:

Energy and advancing the right policies for American energy certainly run through a number of the things Americans say they care about most: jobs, a thriving economy and safety for themselves and their families.

Developing American energy matters to voters, and they’re willing to back leaders who feel the same.

.@USChamber's Engstrom: "It's important for the American voter to understand how federal policies can affect them" #vote4energy #CPP #ozone

— Energy Institute (@Energy21) November 3, 2015

Sean Hackbarth Workers construct part of the Keystone XL pipeline in Atoka, Ok.Workers construct part of the Keystone XL pipeline in Atoka, Ok. Photo credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.

In a bit of “turnabout is fair play,” TransCanada asked the Obama administration to pause making a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until a final route is approved in Nebraska:

Last month, TransCanada applied to the Nebraska Public Service Commission for route approval after opponents went to court, challenging the law under which the route had been approved by then-Gov. Dave Heineman.

"I note that when the status of the Nebraska pipeline route was challenged last year, the State Department found it appropriate to suspend its review until that dispute was resolved," according to a statement from Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer. "We feel under the current circumstances a similar suspension would be appropriate."

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air put it well, "If any one word could describe the Keystone XL pipeline approval process, 'pause' seems most appropriate."

The Obama administration has kept the project in bureaucratic limbo for over seven years, despite the pipeline having undergone five reviews. All of them concluded that it would have minimal effect on the environment.

As the Beaumont (Tex.) Enterprise recently wrote in an editorial, “The real victim in all this is the American people.”

There have been so many missed opportunities from this delay:

Thousands of jobs haven’t been created. Economic growth is missing. Local communities that expected tax revenue from the project have had to make up for those lost funds. The U.S. continues importing lots of oil from unstable parts of the world.

Despite the administration ducking making a decision on the project, the Keystone XL pipeline remains popular with 68% favoring it.

This ridiculousness brings to mind a Rush lyric:

If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.

President Obama has made it known loud and clear what he thinks about the Keystone XL pipeline. And because of his choice, the American economy has a sour note stuck in its ear.