Aug 27, 2019

IEA: New coal plants are a "blind spot" in climate change debate

Coal-fired power station in Hanover, Germany. Photo: plus49/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

The International Energy Agency (IEA) will analyze the climate change and economic costs of the world’s coal plants in its 2019 world energy outlook, set for release in November, the agency's top official told Axios in a recent interview.

Why it matters: "There is an important problem here," said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. "The existing infrastructure provides a lifeline to people in developing countries, but at the same time, it’s the single most important driver of global carbon dioxide emissions."

By the numbers:

  • Today’s coal plants emit more than 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide, which amounts to 1/3 of all energy-related CO2 emissions, Birol said.
  • Coal plants in Europe and the United States are around 40 years old, but ones in Asia are far newer — closer to 11 years old — and still produce profits for the companies that operate them.
  • Those plants in particular are what Birol calls a “blind spot” in our climate and energy debate, given they are likely to be emitting for decades longer.

The big picture: IEA’s analysis will include a detailed, plant-level analysis of all the world’s coal plants, looking at what their "continued operation would mean for global emissions, energy security and costs,” an IEA spokesman said. IEA is an intergovernmental organization funded partly by its 30 member countries.

Go deeper: Why climate change is so hard to tackle

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Indian states ending coal expansion advance goals of UN Climate Week

A session of the 2018 UN General Assembly. Photo: Alexander Shcherbak/TASS via Getty Images

The decisions reached this month by two Indian states, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, to stop building new coal plants align with a renewed call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to end all such construction by 2020.

Why it matters: India's pipeline of planned new coal plants ranks second in size only to China's. These commitments by its state governments come ahead of next week's Climate Summit at the UN General Assembly, where countries will face strong pressure to back off support for expanding coal facilities.

Go deeperArrowSep 18, 2019

Wyoming coal country struggling despite Trump's support

Ponds of coal bed methane water cover in the Powder River Basin near Gillette, Wyoming, 2007. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The coal mining industry in the top coal-producing region of the U.S. is struggling despite President Trump's efforts to prop up the coal industry nationwide, according to AP.

Why it matters: Many coal producers in the Powder River Basin in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana are filing for bankruptcy or consolidating as U.S. coal production has slid 30% since peaking in 2008 and small rural communities across the nation face economic uncertainty.

Go deeperArrowSep 15, 2019

The decline of American coal is taking a toll on the railroad industry

Reproduced from Moody's; Chart: Axios Visuals

No matter what President Trump says, coal in America isn’t coming back — and it’s bringing other industries down with it.

Driving the news: Coal demand for electricity is likely to drop by more than 50% in 11 years, according to a report by the rating agency Moody's. In turn, revenue from transporting that coal around the country via trains is expected to drop $5 billion by 2030, or 5.5% of the railroad industry’s 2018 revenue.

Go deeperArrowSep 5, 2019