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“Advanced Energy for Life”: Peabody Energy Puts Coal on High Moral Ground (energy poverty must end, CEO Boyce argues)

We need to recognize the enormous health and environmental benefits in ending energy poverty, eliminating household air pollution, and increasing access to low-cost electricity. Everyone in the world deserves to live as well as those in developed nations. Let’s use more energy, more cleanly, every day.”

- Gregory Boyce, chairman and chief executive officer, Peabody Energy (February 26, 2014)

Bravo!This is by far the best coal-industry campaign since the Greening Earth Society made a powerful case for the positive externalities of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions back in the 1990s. The new effort, two months old, was announced with this headline:

Advanced Energy for Life Campaign Launched to Build Awareness and Support to End “World’s Number One Human and Environmental Crisis” of Global Energy Poverty

“Calling global energy poverty the world’s number one human and environmental crisis,” the press release read: “Peabody Energy today launched a comprehensive global campaign aimed at building awareness and support to eliminate energy poverty, increase access to low-cost electricity and improve emissions through advanced clean coal technologies.”

The release continues:

The “Advanced Energy for Life” campaign will work to educate and mobilize world leaders, multi-national organizations, a wide range of institutions and stakeholders, and the general public to:

1) End the crisis of global energy poverty, which affects half the world’s population and leads to crippling impacts to human health, standards of living and damage to the environment;

2) Drive policies and support actions that increase access to reliable, low-cost power – particularly today’s advanced coal technologies – that extends lives, builds economies and improves both natural and indoor environments; and

3) Employ today’s advanced technologies to reduce key power plant emissions. Longer term, pursue greater development of next-generation technologies and the regulatory framework to capture, use and store carbon dioxide emissions.

The press release does mention the potential of “public-private partnerships” for new-generation (read uneconomic) coal technologies. But the world is not going this way. Federal policy is not out to help coal, jut disadvantage it. The public-policy “war on coal” should only be a “war” against cronyism. to this end, coal interests can trumpet itself as taxpayer-neutral, as taxpayer-free–unlike wind power, solar power, and nuclear.

Here is most of the most-read press release (with subtitles added):

Global Energy Poverty

“More than a decade ago, the United Nations Millennium Goals called for a rapid halving of extreme global poverty by 2015 – and a half century ago, U.S. President Johnson declared war on poverty,” said Peabody Energy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gregory H. Boyce.

“Yet today, 3.5 billion people in the world lack adequate access to energy, and more than 4 million people needlessly die each year from the effects of energy poverty. We have the technologies and the global resources to end this crisis. All of us must work together toward realistic solutions.”

The need for modern energy is enormous. Half of the world’s 7 billion people lack adequate access to energy, including 1.2 billion children, based on data from the International Energy Agency and the World Bank. Household air pollution from indoor fires is estimated to be the fourth leading cause of death in the world, and results in a stunning 100 million years of life prematurely lost as measured by Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY), a metric established by the World Health Organization. Each DALY represents one year of healthy life lost to disease.

“These sobering statistics demonstrate that energy poverty is the real human and environmental crisis facing the world today,” said Boyce. “The greatest crisis we confront is not an environmental crisis predicted by computer models, but a human crisis fully within our power to solve. For too long, we have been focused on the wrong priorities.”

Coal at Ground Zero

Also driving the need for affordable energy are longer-term demographic trends. The global population is expanding by more than 200,000 people each day. And urban areas are forecast to grow by more than 70 million annually through 2020, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

In any action plan to end global energy poverty and increase access to low-cost electricity, all energy forms are necessary. Coal is the world’s most abundant energy source and fastest-growing major fuel. And coal is expected to surpass oil as the largest energy source in coming years, according to the International Energy Agency and other analysts.

So coal plays a special role in the war to end global energy poverty and increase access to low-cost electricity while using today’s advanced technologies to improve emissions. Coal is key to human health and welfare along with a clean environment.

“Coal is a fundamental environmental solution when turned into electricity and synthetic natural gas at large scale,” said Boyce. “Coal-fueled electricity and synthetic natural gas can eliminate widespread deforestation from gathering biomass as well as the devastating effects of energy poverty.” And coal is a unique fuel of the future based on its density, availability and cost benefits.

“The drive by some to reduce coal use and make energy scarce and expensive is unsustainable, hurting people and harming the environment,” said Boyce. “We need to recognize the enormous health and environmental benefits in ending energy poverty, eliminating household air pollution and increasing access to low-cost electricity. Everyone in the world deserves to live as well as those in developed nations. Let’s use more energy, more cleanly, every day.”

Coal in the U.S.

The strengths of coal in meeting these needs are demonstrated all around the world:

In the United States, coal is used to generate approximately 40 percent of electricity. The states that don’t use coal pay electricity rates that are more than 50 percent above states that use substantial coal for electricity generation. High energy costs create a regressive tax on Americans, with lower-income households spending a far greater portion of their family income on energy bills.

Coal’s environmental profile has continued to improve: Coal used for electricity generation has increased more than 170 percent since 1970, while key power plant emissions have been reduced by nearly 90 percent per unit of electricity….

Coal in Australia

 Australia is one of the largest coal exporters. Coal is the nation’s second-largest export and essential for jobs and economic strength, contributing nearly $43 billion each year to the economy, based on research from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Coal also is the lowest-cost fuel for electricity generation.

At a time when challenging environmental targets and taxes have caused Australian families and businesses to suffer, it is essential that the new government be supported in its call to end the failed carbon tax scheme, scale back renewable energy targets, drive down electricity costs, restore jobs and strengthen the country’s competitive advantage in the Australasian region.

Coal in China

In China, coal demand is rising as it increasingly is used for electricity generation and is turned into natural gas, transportation fuels and chemicals to drive the world’s fastest-growing economy. China will reduce the direct use of coal in residences and businesses while it uses far more coal in electricity plants and conversion applications.

The nation also is replacing older coal plants with advanced coal units as well as using synthetic gas from coal in a range of applications. This approach, along with installation of major emissions controls on power plants and replacing older plants with advanced technologies, is similar to the approach that the United States has taken over the past half century.

Conclusion

“The world continues to turn to coal to solve its largest energy and economic challenges, but we need far more action to expand access to low-cost electricity to help families, power economies and pull billions out of energy poverty,” said Boyce.

“We also need a new approach to rational environmental policy. We submit that the right path is through increased deployment of today’s advanced technologies such as supercritical coal generation that lead to continued emissions reductions. Longer term, research and development in next-generation technologies can lead to the ultimate goal of near-zero emissions from coal.”

5 comments

1 Jerry Summers { 04.29.14 at 8:35 am }

God created coal and other fossil fuels for use by humans throughout
their time on earth, and called them “very good”.

2 Sherri Lange { 04.29.14 at 10:08 am }

Thanks, Rob, for this capsule of info. India has about 306 million without access to electricity: here is another glimpse of what energy poverty entails:

“The consequences are not difficult to contemplate. Without energy there is no path out of poverty. In poor nations around the world, the calculation is even simpler than that.

As numerous analyses have highlighted, energy poverty affects health. Household air pollution from solid fuels used for lighting, heating and cooking contribute to:

- 3.5 million premature deaths per year;

- education – most African schoolchildren attend schools with no electricity and cannot study in the dark; and

- jobs – lack of reliable and affordable electricity is a major constraint to growth.

The task to close this gap is great and by definition it must be done at least cost. While all energy sources will be needed, the world’s cheapest, most versatile and abundant fuel – coal – must be a major part of the solution to global energy poverty.

Without it, the task is insurmountable and the human cost incalculable. Two problems help illustrate the point – cost and capacity.

First, a recent working group report to the International Energy Agency concluded that world energy consumption trends showed that “inexpensive coal serves to decrease the price of electricity, when the price-setting plant is a coal-fired one.”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-08/pearson-coal-the-answer-to-energy-poverty/5371462

3 Sherri Lange { 04.29.14 at 10:10 am }

Thanks, Rob. Wonderful coal capsule.

Additionally:

“The consequences are not difficult to contemplate. Without energy there is no path out of poverty. In poor nations around the world, the calculation is even simpler than that.

As numerous analyses have highlighted, energy poverty affects health. Household air pollution from solid fuels used for lighting, heating and cooking contribute to:

- 3.5 million premature deaths per year;

- education – most African schoolchildren attend schools with no electricity and cannot study in the dark; and

- jobs – lack of reliable and affordable electricity is a major constraint to growth.

The task to close this gap is great and by definition it must be done at least cost. While all energy sources will be needed, the world’s cheapest, most versatile and abundant fuel – coal – must be a major part of the solution to global energy poverty.

Without it, the task is insurmountable and the human cost incalculable. Two problems help illustrate the point – cost and capacity.

First, a recent working group report to the International Energy Agency concluded that world energy consumption trends showed that “inexpensive coal serves to decrease the price of electricity, when the price-setting plant is a coal-fired one.”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-08/pearson-coal-the-answer-to-energy-poverty/5371462

4 EnergyData { 04.29.14 at 6:59 pm }

I am linking here to a summary of the BGR’s latest estimates of global fossil fuel resources and reserves.
http://j.mp/FF_RR_2013

5 rbradley { 04.29.14 at 9:36 pm }

Thanks Sherri–very helpful comment.

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