Coal trends

Finweek English Edition - - COMPANIES & INVESTMENTS -

As a min­eral, coal has a bad a rap as any dirt y, car­bon­con­tribut­ing el­e­ment can have. It’s not as if burn­ing coal for en­ergy – which is its sole funct ion – has a bright side such as t he un­ques­tion­able role played by the giv­ing of di­a­monds in hu­man prop­a­ga­tion. Even plat­inum, not ex­actly the min­eral du jour, can be used to re­move nox­ious gases from au­to­mo­tive emis­sions.

You just burn coal, an ac­tiv­ity that feels as fu­tile as pour­ing dis­in­fec­tant down a drain: in the ab­sence of proof, one just sup­poses ef­fi­cacy. Sim­i­larly, we really have to take it on trust that by burn­ing coal for en­ergy, there’s no bet­ter way of keep­ing our­selves warm, or read­ing at night.

At­ten­dees rep­re­sent­ing the world’s coal in­dus­try at a re­cent IHS En­ergy Pub­lish­ing con­fer­ence in Hawaii (iron­i­cally, the kind of trop­i­cal par­adise en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists think coal en­dan­gers), be­lieve the con­tin­ued health of their in­dus­try is cru­cial to hu­man progress.

Ac­cord­ing to Chris Hage­dorn, pres­i­dent of the Asia re­gion for the $5.5bn USlisted coal min­ing firm, Pe­abody En­ergy, ev­ery ten­fold in­crease in per capita elec­tric­ity us­age drives a ten-year in­crease in life ex­pectancy. “Elec­tric­ity en­ables peo­ple to live longer and bet­ter,” he said. As such, Hage­dorn es­ti­mated the world’s coal in­dus­try has a rosy fu­ture, not­with­stand­ing the pres­sure placed upon its ex­trac­tion by green lob­by­ists and the like.

China, for in­stance, is ex­pected to dou­ble its elec­tric­ity-gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity as part of that coun­try’s enor­mous urbanisation, a thrust that will re­quire 2.5bn tons of ad­di­tional coal pro­duc­tion. “I get very ex­cited about the role of coal,” Hage­dorn said to great ap­plause from the con­fer­ence au­di­ence, clearly equally con­fi­dent in the virtues of pure car­bon. The fact of the mat­ter is that for all the talk of alternative en­ergy

sources, coal-f ired power

David McKay

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