Coal Disil­lu­sion in Asia

People's Review - - COMMENTARY - BY ASMITA PANDEY

Coal is a com­bustible black or brown sed­i­men­tary rock com­posed mostly of car­bon and hy­dro­car­bons. It is a fos­sil fuel and is al­tered re­mains of pre­his­toric veg­e­ta­tion that orig­i­nally ac­cu­mu­lated in swamps and pet logs. It is a non re­new­able form of en­ergy ab­sorbed by plants from sun mil­lions of years ago. All liv­ing plants store en­ergy through a process called pho­to­syn­the­sis. When plants die, this en­ergy is re­leased as they de­cay. Un­der cer­tain con­di­tions fa­vor­able to coal for­ma­tion, the de­cay­ing process is in­ter­rupted pre­vent­ing the re­lease of stored so­lar en­ergy. Coal for­ma­tion be­gan dur­ing car­bonif­er­ous pe­riod which spanned 360 mil­lion to 290 mil­lion years ago. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port of the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency 2013, coal pro­vided 41 of the world's elec­tric­ity needs. It is the most abun­dant fos­sil fuel pro­duced in United States whereas China is the largest coal pro­ducer in the Asia. 46 of the to­tal coal was pro­duced by China which is equiv­a­lent to 3549 Mt. 25 of the to­tal U.S. coal ex­ports goes to Asia but re­main a small share of Asia's to­tal coal im­ports. The other key ex­port­ing coun­tries to Asia are Aus­tralia, South Africa and Columbia. Ac­cord­ing to The Quartz Me­dia, China's coal use more than dou­bled be­tween 2002 and 2012, and it is by far the largest coal con­sumer in the world. The coal con­sump­tion in China was ap­prox­i­mated 3526 mil­lion met­ric tons. In­dia's con­sump­tion was 775 Mt whereas Ja­pan's 190 Mt was fol­lowed by South Korea and Kaza­khstan. U.S. coal ex­ports have made steady in­roads to the Asian Mar­ket since 2007. Al­most all the U.S. coal ex­ported to Asia went to world's top four coal im­porters; China, Ja­pan, In­dia and South Korea. Coal ex­ports of U.S. to Asian Coun­tries from 2 in 2007 to 25 in 2012, while these large ex­ports of U.S. pro­vided less than 4 of Asia's coal im­ports in 2012 and less than 1 of the to­tal coal con­sumed by four large Asian im­porters. These data are based on the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Coal, the most pol­lut­ing way to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity is a se­ri­ous threat to our cli­mate. It is mainly made up of car­bon, mak­ing it a car­bon- in­ten­sive en­ergy source. Burn­ing coal pro­duces nearly dou­ble the green house gas emis­sion as burn­ing gas, for the same amount of en­ergy. So, al­though coal gen­er­ated less than 30 of the world's en­ergy sup­ply in 2013, it pro­duced 46 of the global car­bon diox­ide emis­sions. A typ­i­cal 500 MW coal power plant re­leases global warm­ing emis­sions roughly equal to 600,000 cars. Yet un­like cars, coal plants are de­signed to op­er­ate for 40 years or more a long life­span of pol­lut­ing en­ergy. Coal min­ing of­ten pro­duces the po­tent green house gas meth­ane. Meth­ane is 84 times as pow­er­ful as car­bon diox­ide at dis­rupt­ing the cli­mate over a given 20 year pe­riod. Ac­cord­ing to the re­search re­port of Green Peace In­ter­na­tional, if plans for new coal fired power plants around the world go ahead, car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from coal would bal­loon to 60 of the global to­tal by 2030. World­wide proven coal re­serves would al­low us to burn it for 110 more years. Yet if even a small frac­tion of this dirty, pol­lut­ing fuel is mined and burned we have no chance to stay within 1.5 0C rise of tem­per­a­ture rise. Be­yond this level of warm­ing many im­pacts of cli­mate change be­come se­vere in some re­gions. Coal has got sev­eral im­pacts on cli­mate. To mit­i­gate all these we need to break free from dirty, pol­lut­ing coal. Com­mu­ni­ties should be high­lighted about coal's health im­pacts. The farm­ers driven from their land to make way con­struc­tion of power plants must be sup­ported. Sev­eral cam­paigns must be or­ga­nized to stop the flow of in­vest­ment to coal and other fos­sil fuel projects. As an in­di­vid­ual we should also ex­plore ways to power up our life with re­new­able en­ergy. The good news is we have al­ready be­gun to change. Coal is in a steep and ir­re­versible de­cline and clean, safe, re­new­able en­ergy has un­stop­pable mo­men­tum. We must move still faster to pre­vent cli­mate cri­sis.

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