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The True Cost of Coal Power

Posted on 18 March 2011 by dana1981

Due to its abundance and low market price, coal combustion is the largest source of energy production in the world, accounting for 40% of all electricity worldwide.  In the USA it accounts for 45% of electricity generation, and approximately 75% in Australia.

Unfortunately, coal combustion is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions as well, accounting for 30% of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions worldwide, and 72% of CO2 emissions from global power generation.  In addition, non-power generation uses increase its contribution to global human CO2 emissions to a whopping 41% (as of 2005).

Coal Externalities

A major problem with coal is that its full costs are not reflected in its market price, and thus while we may seemingly purchase and burn coal cheaply, in reality we are paying a much higher cost in the long run, if we look at the big picture.  Economists refer to the impacts on human and environmental health which are not reflected in the price of coal as "externalities".  Those who benefit from the seemingly cheap electricity don't pay for these externalities directly, but the public eventually has to pay in the form of medical bills, environmental cleanups, etc.

In a new report published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Epstein et al. (2011) do a full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal, taking these externalities into account.  Among the factors included in this analysis were:

  • government coal subsidies
  • increased illness and mortality due to mining pollution
  • climate change from greenhouse gas emissions
  • particulates causing air pollution
  • loss of biodiversity
  • cost to taxpayers of environmental monitoring and cleanup
  • decreased property values
  • infrastructure damages from mudslides resulting from mountaintop removal
  • infrastructure damage from mine blasting
  • impacts of acid rain resulting from coal combustion byproducts
  • water pollution

Note that most of these external factors do not apply to most non-fossil fuel energy sources.  The majority of the externality costs come from reduction in air quality, contribution to climate change, and impacts to public health.  Epstein et al. find that the total cost of these externalities ranges from approximately 9 to 27 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity generated, with a median of approximately 18 cents per kWh.  The authors note that this is a conservative estimate, because they have not accounted for every associated impact. 

Figure 1: Coal externalized cost (cents per kWh) from Epstein et al. (2011)

Cost Comparison

The US Energy Information Administration provides a comparison of levelized costs for different power generation sources.  Levelized cost represents the present value of the total cost of building and operating a generating plant over a period of time, and reflects overnight capital cost, fuel cost, operation and maintenance costs, financing costs, and an assumed utilization rate for each plant type.  To convert from dollars per megawatt-hour to cents per kWh, move the decimal point in the table below one spot to the left (for example, conventional coal is 9.48 cents per kWh on average).

energy costs from EIA

As you can see, the externalities are sufficient to triple the cost of coal power, if they were reflected in its price.  If we include the coal externalities, it increases the levalized costs to approximately 28 cents per kWh, which is more than hydroelectric, wind (onshore and offshore), geothermal,  biomass, nuclear, natural gas, solar photovoltaic, and on par with solar thermal (whose costs are falling rapidly).  Suddenly coal doesn't look like such a good deal.


Epstein et al. conclude by offering a number of recommendations:

  1. Comprehensive comparative analyses of life cycle costs of all electricity generation technologies and practices are needed to guide the development of future energy policies.
  2. Begin phasing out coal and phasing in cleanly powered smart grids, using place-appropriate alternative energy sources.
  3. A healthy energy future can include electric vehicles, plugged into cleanly powered smart grids; and healthy cities initiatives, including green buildings, roof-top gardens, public transport, and smart growth.
  4. Alternative industrial and farming policies are needed for coal-field regions, to support the manufacture and installation of solar, wind, small-scale hydro, and smart grid technologies. Rural electric co-ops can help in meeting consumer demands.
  5. We must end mountaintop removal (MTR) mining, reclaim all MTR sites and abandoned mine lands, and ensure that local water sources are safe for consumption.
  6. Funds are needed for clean enterprises, reclamation, and water treatment.
  7. Fund-generating methods include: maintaining revenues from the workers’ compensation coal tax;
    b. increasing coal severance tax rates;
    c. increasing fees on coal haul trucks and trains;
    d. reforming the structure of credits and taxes to remove misaligned incentives;
    e. reforming federal and state subsidies to incentivize clean technology infrastructure.
  8. To transform our energy infrastructure, we must realign federal and state rules, regulations, and rewards to stimulate manufacturing of and markets for clean and efficient energy systems. Such a transformation would be beneficial for our health, for the environment, for sustained economic health, and would contribute to stabilizing the global climate.

Bottom Line

Ultimately it's a significant problem that we rely so heavily on coal to meet our energy needs due to its artificially low market price.  It's like eating junk food for every meal.  It's cheap, it tastes good, but it's not healthy and eventually you'll pay the price through poor health, high medical bills, and a shortened lifespan.

We may not pay the costs of climate change, lost biodiversity, air and water pollution, adverse health effects, etc. up front, but we do have to pay them eventually.  We need to follow the recommendations of Epstein et al., transform our energy infrastructure, and move away from our dependence on coal and other fossil fuels.

Coincidentally, the US EPA has just proposed national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants.  These standards will "require many power plants to install widely available, proven pollution control technologies to cut harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases, while preventing as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year."  This is a good step in ensuring that some of the externalities discussed in this article are internalized and taken into account.  Coal power plants were exempted from meeting the requirements of the Clean Air Act until 2000, and these new EPA standards will finally ensure that air pollution from coal power plants is regulated, rather than being freely released into the atmosphere.

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Comments 1 to 34:

  1. "If we include the coal externalities, it increases the levalized costs to approximately 28 cents per kWh, which is more than hydroelectric, wind (onshore and offshore), geothermal, biomass, nuclear, natural gas, solar photovoltaic, and on par with solar thermal (whose costs are falling rapidly). Suddenly coal doesn't look like such a good deal." maybe, but hydroelectric and geothermal are possible only in specific places, wind and solar are intermittent, natural gas and nuclear are also finite and have their own drawbacks and external costs (what is the cost of the three major nuclear accidents ?). And none of these can replace coal or other FF in non-power generation applications, which means that we need anyway a minimum amount of FF , which also means that it is very unlikely that we stop extracting them before they're exhausted, which also means that alternative energies will not REPLACE FF , but simply superimpose on them.
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  2. Seriously, Gilles, you're such a one track record &-as always-your claims rely on complete *false-hoods*. Neither Wind nor Solar are intermittent, as there is now this thing called *storage* (hardly new, as plenty of storage options have existed for at least a decade). Geothermal & Hydroelectric are also not as limited in their placement as you make out, when you include things like Micro-hydro, tidal streams power, Run-of-the-river hydro, Osmotic plants & hot-rocks. Also, you think that coal power stations can be built willy nilly? No, coal power stations have very strict limits on where they can be built, & usually have to be sited close to the source of fuel (coal mines). As to gas, well maybe natural gas is finite, but its also more efficient than coal power (2-3 times more efficient depending on the type of turbines used to produce the electricity), can be built at any size; to better match demand; is modular, so can be scaled to meet changes in demand curves, & added to slowly as demand increases-unlike inflexible coal power stations &-most important-natural gas can be substituted with methane from natural, non-finite sources, such as landfills, sewerage treatment plants & from algae grown from the CO2 waste generated from a gas-fired power station. Methane/natural gas is also a fantastic storage medium for various levels of solar thermal energy-from simply boosting the energy content of the methane (at temps of 60 degrees C to 100 degrees C) all the way to breaking down the methane into CO2 & H2 which, when re-reacted, generate heat & recreate the methane. So, as you can see, there are already substantial options for replacing coal as our major source of base-load energy, something which won't just reduce the amount of CO2 entering our atmosphere, but also reduce the amount of Radon, particulate emissions, mercury & cadmium which also gets into our air courtesy of coal-fired power stations. Now, have you got anything *new* to say? Or are you just going to keep boring us with Coal/Oil industry advertising?
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  3. Another thing which always seems odd to me when considering cost comparisons between fossil fuels and alternatives is that they ignore the fact that fossil fuel prices will inevitably keep rising over time. For instance, to determine the 'cost' of electricity from a solar power plant you essentially calculate the construction cost, add in a small cost for ongoing maintenance, assume a lifespan of about 30 years and then divided the power to be generated over that timespan by the calculated cost. Cost estimates for coal plants are calculated very similarly, but there is one very large additional cost... you have to factor in the coal itself. Yet when doing so comparisons invariably seem to use the current cost of coal extended over the lifespan of the plant. Which is simply unrealistic. If one instead assumes that coal prices continue rising at the rate they have been and then uses an average price over the plant's lifetime then wind and solar power are already cheaper than coal power... even without considering the externalities described in the article above. They'd start out being more expensive, but by the end of the plant's lifespan rising fuel costs would more than offset the difference. That said, there are now a few places in the world (e.g. Hawaii, parts of Italy, Southern California) where solar power has dropped below even current fossil fuel costs (again without considering externalities). As solar prices continue to drop that'll be true of larger and larger areas. Most estimates put global average solar cost dropping below fossil fuel costs during this decade... again even assuming that fossil fuel costs were to magically stop rising. Factor in the inevitability of fossil fuel prices rising as supplies decline and the externialities and it seems inconceivable that people are still pushing fossil fuels.
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  4. Yes we do need to sit down and evaluate this intelligently instead of allowing ourselves to be marketed by the producers of any given fuel source. That said: ( - Paragraph in All-Caps deleted - ) The source of the increase is methane gas. There is methane pouring into our seas from leaky oil wells and exploding methane hydrates, and there are tremendous amounts of land emissions. Before this site publishes another word on greenhouses gases you need to do the math. Given methane has risen in the atmosphere 140-155 percent depending who you read, and CO 2 has increased only 26% and methane's ultimate oxidant is CO 2, how much of the extra CO 2 in our atmosphere is methane oxidant. One scientist way back in 1972 said that methane produced 25 times the amount of carbon dioxide as cars, and methane has risen astronomically since then. Do you want to market a fuel or do you want to save earth. Make up your mind! And by the way the answer is and always has been WATER! Canadian energy companies are moving in that direction, so is Russia by inking a deal with Hydro Quebec to develope Russian water sources. The new development that Emera in Canada is putting together is utilizing two waterfall in labrador to produce a ton of mega watts daily. How about checking out the American Niagara Falls. Remember Tesla. The answer is water, macro and micro water power, in our streams, rivers waterfalls real and maufactuired, in our tides and waves. It is the lady, all the rest are tigers. Until I hear the word water out of this site, you are marketing, not trying to save Earth. Andrea Silverthorne
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Please limit the use of all-caps to perhaps a word or two (Comments Policy). Please also furnish links to sources (preferably peer-reviewed studies) that support your above contentions. Remember also the topic of this thread, as much of your comment, as it currently stands, is off-topic here. Thanks!
  5. andthorne @ 4: No, it's not methane. Yet. Yes, methane is part of the problem, and needs to be dealt with. If the methane in the hydrates & permafrost comes out, we're all in big trouble. But right now, methane isn't increasing much, while CO2 is. Regarding your comments on water - not every part of the world is blessed with the combination of rainfall and geography that Qebec has. Some areas are even running short of the stuff to drink. Also, storage for hydro is not cheap, takes up a lot of room, and the most suitable sites may already have towns or cities or other important infrastructure in them. It may be part of the solution, but it's not the only solution.
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  6. Erk. Mods, feel free to move my off-topic reply to the relevant thread, or delete it... [blush] Back on topic, pricing the externalities of coal is the big issue of the day. Brown coal produces ~0.8t of CO2 per MWh, so at $25/t CO2, that's only raising the price to $120/MWh. Still, that's enough to make it more expensive per MWh than everything except offshore wind, Solar PV, and Solar Thermal, going by your costs. I've seen costs for existing Solar thermal around the $170-$290 per MWh range, so that's almost competitive now, too. A bit more engineering to reduce the cost per MWh, and bob's your uncle! The big problem, as CBDunkerson points out, is that with fossil fuel plants you only pay part of the cost now, with most of it coming in fuel costs over 30 years, whereas most of the renewables have more like 80% of the costs up-front.
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  7. The 'up front' nature of renewable costs also seems to be a big part of the barrier to implementing them right now. First because it means that you need to invest alot of money in advance and not see any profit for many years. While the eventual payoff should be more than worth it, modern investing strategy runs more towards short term slash and burn than long term prudent growth strategies. The other barrier is, ironically, falling prices for various forms of renewable energy. A solar plant built today would cost half what one built just a few years ago would have... and one built a few years from now will likely cost half as much again. Why spend money on something that will yield a small return starting in 15 years when you can wait/invest elsewhere for five years and start getting a larger return in around the same timeframe? It is clear that these issues won't delay the switchover to alternative energy sources much longer, but it sure is frustrating to watch as we continue to pay higher costs for fossil energy sources which are inferior in almost every way (energy density of gasoline being the only significant exception).
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  8. Gilles' comments are beginning to seem like spamming to me. We get it. You think FFs are wonderful, and your concern about externalities and opportunity costs is minimal to nonexistent. Duly noted, yet again. For people who think a different world is not only possible, but desirable, here's an interesting article on the cost of solar power.
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  9. Phila... That's a great article. Best I've read in a while.
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  10. One of the favorite things to say is "the wind doesn't always blow" so we need to burn coal. Refer those who say that to this item: etoc. It shows that if distributed over a reasonably wide area and tied together in a grid, the wind power never goes to zero. In fact, offshore wind farms in the Atlantic could supply all the electrical needs of the coastal states, or more.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Fixed & hotlinked URL.

  11. Great : we had undue exponential extrapolations of economic growth and FF consumptions, now we have undue exponential extrapolations of the decrease of solar PV cost. Thank you, exponential function !
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  12. Gilles, between 1982 & 2006, the average cost of PV's fell from US$25 per Watt to less than US$ per Watt-yet in that same time period, average conversion efficiency has risen from less than 8% to more than 20%. Whether you choose to accept those facts or not, Gilles, it *shows* clearly that the potential of PV Cells-in both cost & efficiency terms-has barely been tapped, in spite of the much smaller amount of public funds enjoyed by the PV sector when compared to your beloved fossil fuels.
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  13. So I guess my point is this-if the cost of solar cells can fall by more than 1/7th in the space of less than 30 years, then I'd hardly call the extrapolations in that article "undue". Also, I don't see anything in those graphs to suggest they're exponential extrapolations either-though you've proven already your total inability to read a graph, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised at such an error on your part.
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  14. Marcus :"Also, I don't see anything in those graphs to suggest they're exponential extrapolations either-" Well, if you don't understand that saying "And indeed, it follows a nearly straight line on a log scale... What do these trends mean for the future? If the 7 percent decline in costs continues (and 2010 and 2011 both look likely to beat that number), then in 20 years the cost per watt of PV cells will be just over 50 cents." IS an exponential extrapolation (i.e. linear extrapolation in log scale), you could benefit from some refreshment of your mathematics courses. As an exercise, you could plot the growth curve of your children in log scale during their first 15 years, and then extrapolate linearly in log scale ...
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  15. if you have children, of course.
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  16. Again, Gilles, you haven't proven their extrapolations are *undue*-& they certainly provide a much more iron-clad case for their extrapolations than you provide to "prove" your false correlation between Fossil Fuel Consumption & Wealth.
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  17. well, marcus, I have no idea of what you're calling "false" correlation.The correlation is mathematical and historical, and is plenty justified by physical laws. You said you have a dvd player, a cell phone and other toys. Do they grow naturally on trees in Australia ? don't you travel across your country or abroad (if not, I think you have a relatively low level of consumption, and may be of income - which wouldn't contradict the correlation of course). BTW, the cost of solar panel is not everything , of course - you have the obvious problem of intermittency, or the supplementary cost to mitigate it.
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  18. Gilles, you're forgetting the golden rule (well, one of them, anyway): Correlation does not equal Causation Personally, my income level is by no means tied to my consumption of fossil fuels. Why, I managed to reduce our fossil fuel consumption by at least 20% just by putting a solar hot water system on the roof, and, gosh, my pay hasn't gone down in the three years since... Has your employer told you that they'll cut your paypacket if you start using biofuels, or solar electricity? If so, that's certainly in breach of all manner of employment laws, at least here in Australia...
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  19. Gilles, you've yet to provide any data that proves your claim that the fossil fuel=wealth correlation is either historical or mathematical-in spite of your multiple repetition of the claim. I've provided some other perfectly reasonable social changes-namely increasing wage parity (courtesy of trade unions), & increased contraception & abortion access-that far better correlate with increasing wealth in Western Nations than consumption of fossil fuels. Second, solar panels produce their greatest amount of electricity when demand for electricity is at its highest(between 10am & 4pm), which makes them perfect for peak power generation. Of course, alongside significant price reductions & improvements in efficiency, solar cells have also undergone massive improvements in terms of the amount of cloud cover required to stop *all* electricity production from the cells. Oh, & contrary to your statement, price of the cells-& energy storage-is the issue, because as the cost of both continues to fall, then the ability of householders to install enough solar panels & battery storage to both supply the grid *and* meet all their own power needs becomes infinitely more affordable. Still, you obviously don't care to hear that, because it goes so much against your mantra of "no wealth without fossil fuels".
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  20. You make a good point Bern. Prior to my energy efficiency drive, my electricity bills were around $200 per quarter-even with tariff increases, they're now less than $150 per quarter. So, if anything, I can show an *inverse* correlation between my fossil fuel use & my personal wealth. Now, thanks to my Green Energy scheme, I use *no* fossil fuels at all for my electricity needs, & all for AU$0.01c per kw-h more-which amounts to a *whopping* $6 per quarter more for my electricity than what I was paying just 1 month ago-oh dear, better head off to the *poor house*. Similarly, if I used a car to get to work every day, I'd currently be spending about $40 per week on my petrol alone, but because I use public transport to get everywhere, I spend only $30 a week-meaning I save over $500 per annum-again, inverse correlation between personal fossil fuel consumption & personal wealth. Seems like Gilles argument really fails to hold any water.
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  21. "Gilles, you're forgetting the golden rule (well, one of them, anyway): Correlation does not equal Causation" sure, but it doesn't mean that there is no causation. Tell me : how can you estimate the cost of GW without using correlation ? I wonder why this argument is always forgotten in climate studies ! " Personally, my income level is by no means tied to my consumption of fossil fuels. Why, I managed to reduce our fossil fuel consumption by at least 20% just by putting a solar hot water system on the roof, and, gosh, my pay hasn't gone down in the three years since..." Personally, I managed to increase my average temperature outside (by going on vacation in the south of France) without any harm. So I deduce also that temperature is not a problem for human beings. And also, I adopted a diet that has reduced my caloric input by 20 % . So I deduce logically that food is not necessary for life. Just a question : what are you doing with your spared money? do you think that the things you're buying grow naturally on trees and walk to the stores ? do you think that public transportation work only with sun ? do you even think that the electrons that move in your electric wires do exactly know where they're from and carefully travel from green sources to your houses ? (although they vibrate at 50 or 60 Hz and don't travel a lot -actually they always stay pretty close to your houses) ? if you become ill, will you ask if the hospital electricity and the devices that could save your life are "green" ?
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  22. Marcus : "Gilles, you've yet to provide any data that proves your claim that the fossil fuel=wealth correlation is either historical or mathematical-in spite of your multiple repetition of the claim." I really didn't think that you could ignore such an obvious thing. Here is an example for Japan : (you could draw pretty much the same kind of graphics for all industrial countries). Of course you could argue that the slope is different and that they're have been times where GDP grew much more than energy consumption. But that's exactly the same for the effect of GW : you wouldn't find anywhere a definite relationship between temperature and any human indicator, with a constant factor, independent of history and geography ! things never work like that ! if you dismiss the correlation only by this simplistic argument, you dismiss also any effect of temperature on human societies. What is obvious is that both are correlated, and the different slopes could be also interpreted as a first part when energy was consumed with few consideration for energy efficiency , a lot of spoiling, and bad energy intensity, followed by a period where energy conservation took more importance following oil shocks. That's only because people were not very careful when the growth was important and energy was very cheap. So of course we can (and we must) improve our energy use. It doesn't mean at all that FF can be suppressed without harm - despite all fairy tales you're reading.
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  23. "Second, solar panels produce their greatest amount of electricity when demand for electricity is at its highest(between 10am & 4pm), which makes them perfect for peak power generation" well, that's different in France : peak consumption is during cold and dark evenings in winter - because thanks to cheap nuclear electricity , many people have electrical heating. Unfortunatly no sun and not always wind at this time. Worst, nuclear plant cannot respond quickly to spikes, so we must start again thermal plants. That may be different in hot countries , where the peak it due to air conditioning in summer. But, you know, there is a much simpler solution : air conditioning is not necessary for life - 99 % of mankind has survived without air conditioning. So the best thing is actually - good old houses with dick walls and fresh shadow.
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  24. "It doesn't mean at all that FF can be suppressed without harm - despite all fairy tales you're reading." The only one reading fairy tales here, Gilles, is *you*. If that graph you supplied is the best you can do to "prove" the correlation between fossil fuel use & Wealth, then you're really clutching at straws. According to that graph, GDP grew by more than 20 times, whilst total energy demand increased by barely 4 fold-not really a great correlation to begin with. When you consider that the share of that energy which derives from coal or oil has *fallen* over that time period, then your correlation becomes even weaker still. I've shown examples of nations whose energy use/$ GDP has risen over the last 30 years, without any real improvement in total GDP over that period, & I've likewise shown a number of nations which have increased their total GDP, whilst significantly reducing the energy intensity of their economy *and* the share of energy derived from coal or oil. So I'd argue that I have more proof of the *lack* of a correlation than you have proof of a correlation. Even if you *could* prove a correlation for the past, it would certainly not hold true that *future* wealth creation depends on fossil fuel consumption-no matter *what* your fairy tales tell you.
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  25. "well, that's different in France : peak consumption is during cold and dark evenings in winter - because thanks to cheap nuclear electricity , many people have electrical heating. Unfortunatly no sun and not always wind at this time. Worst, nuclear plant cannot respond quickly to spikes, so we must start again thermal plants." Yet your neighbours, Germany, have made very successful inroads in the use of PV's, solar hot water systems & passive solar heating-not to mention Wind Power-so your claims don't really don't stack up. Also, Coal Power stations don't respond well to spikes in demand either-as the frequent brown-outs & load shedding during Australian Summers can attest. As much as you try & spin it, Gilles, with the proper implementation of new & upcoming storage technologies most nations could swap entirely to a mix of renewable energy sources-be it bio-gas, tidal, solar, wind or osmotic,just for starters-within the next 20 years or so.
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  26. German people produce 9.6 tCO2/yr/capita, whereas French produce only 6. Of course it is easier to improve when you're very bad at the beginning. Even Denmark produces 9.2 (and bad chinese people only 4.9). The only methods that have proved to be efficient to reduce (in some measure) CO2 production are hydroelectricity and nuclear power, that's it. All the rest is totally unable to power a modern country, despite everything you can read.
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  27. and if you try to convince me that we can improve the use of oil and other FF, it's useless. I'm already convinced. This doesn't change the fact that a) improvement cannot go to zero (same with food) b) once improvements are done, there is no real reason (and no moral justification) to prevent much poorer people to use the spared fuels (yes, there are much poorer people than australian in the world !) c) and there is also no precise reason to stop extracting FF as long as we can't suppress totally them. b) and c) imply logically that improvements will lead to more wealth produced with the same amount of FF and not same wealth produced with less FF - which is exactly what you can read on the graphs.
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  28. "despite everything you can read." So once again you are making an unsubstantiated assertion and at the same time admitting that this assertion flies in the face of what has been written. Right.
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  29. "All the rest is totally unable to power a modern country, despite everything you can read." Yep, that's exactly what I'd expect you to say....don't believe the *facts*, says Gilles, only believe my unsubstantiated assertions. I've shown that many 1st World Countries are now producing *more* wealth with lower energy input than what they were 30 years ago (just read the IEA reports if you don't believe me), & that many of those same 1st World Countries are now sourcing more of that energy from renewable sources than 30 years ago-so that really does put the kibosh on your claims. As renewable energy technology continues to improve in price, reliability & total output, the more we'll be able to generate wealth *without* the need for fossil fuels-or nuclear power. Seriously, Gilles, I'm totally *done* with you on this matter. You clearly want to keep living in this fantasy land where nothing but fossil fuels can generate wealth-even when the facts don't support you-so I really don't see why I should continue wasting my breath!
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  30. BTW, Gilles, your data regarding Germany's per capita CO2 emissions is almost 4 years old. Back in 1991-before they embarked on their renewable energy & energy efficiency program, their emissions were 12t per capita-so a 3.4t per capita reduction in the space of 15 years-with no apparent harm to GDP growth (per capita GDP of around $41,000). The US, btw, that has double the CO2 emissions (per capita) of Germany has a per capita GDP of only $47,000. Denmark, Sweden & Norway also have significantly lower per capita emissions than the US, yet their per capita GDP is *higher* than the US ($55,000, $49,000 & $88,000 respectively). The UK & France have *also* reduced their CO2 emissions-by around 1t per capita from 1991 levels-& they also have very good per capita GDP ($36,000 & $39,000 respectively) really kind of puts paid to the whole Fossil Fuel use=greater wealth argument. Anyway, like I said, I'll now leave you to dwell in your fantasy land. Just please stop spamming your fantasy around this site *unless* you have some kind of solid proof to back it up.
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  31. Coal contains: (snip) and all of the decay products of uranium, (snip), Antimony, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Selenium, Barium, Fluorine, Silver, Beryllium, Iron, Sulfur, Boron, Titanium, Cadmium, Magnesium, (snip), Calcium, Manganese, Vanadium, Chlorine, Aluminum, Chromium, Molybdenum and Zinc. There is so much of these elements in coal that cinders and coal smoke are actually valuable ores. We should be able to get (snip). Unburned Coal and crude oil also contain (snip). We could get all of our uranium and thorium from coal ashes and cinders. The carbon content of coal ranges from 96% down to 25%, the remainder being rock of various kinds. If you are an underground coal miner, you may be in violation of the rules for radiation workers. The uranium decay chain includes the radioactive gas (snip), which you are breathing. Radon decays in about a day into polonium, the super-poison. Chinese industrial grade coal is sometimes stolen by peasants for cooking. The result is that the whole family dies of arsenic poisoning in days, not years because Chinese industrial grade coal contains large amounts of arsenic. Yes, that (snip) is getting into the air you breathe, the water you drink and the soil your food grows in. So are all of those other heavy metal poisons. Your health would be a lot better without coal. Benzene is also found in petroleum. If you have cancer, check for benzene in your past. See: or in case the ORNL site does not work.
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    Moderator Response: TC: All instances of all capitals snipped. Use of all capitals for emphasis violates the comments policy. Future violations may result in the entire post being snipped. It is highly recommended that you read and comply with the comments policy. Your follow on post has also been deleted for being off topic. You are welcome to argue your case, but find thread discussing the issues you wish to address to do so.
  32. A very good article and a good discussion.  Do you know how the coal plant prices were calculated?  Does the calculation include the cost of building the plant and associated transmission or does it assume the plant is in place?  Do the renewable prices include the initial hardware costs?

    There are externalities for renewable energy sources also.

    One can always find things to add or take awy from an analysis like this.  However, the conclusions usually stand when most of the factors are included like this study.

    In my oppinion any utility executive promoting a new coal fired plant should be removed for obvious incompetatance.  Does anyone think a new plant will ever be profitable when it's expected useful life is probably less than a decade.

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  33. Now that this is real, the co op rural movement is where I'm at.  Sustainable farming is the name of the game.  How do we power a sustainable farming indoor vertical growing system?  We have no coal power come next month.  Our only means of power generation is oil, natural gas, and gasoline.  Air power and solar are not options.  We don't have hydrogen systems and the Nitinol engine doesn't exist here yet. We have no rivers so to speak, and no alternatives that will provide the megawatts we need for our communities.  I'm tempted to go back to coal or using biomass burnable products that are comparable.  Anyone have a suggestion?  Oil is abundant.  We can burn crude oil by the thousands of barrels and not put a ding into production one bit.


    Laughing Man

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  34. If you are using up a finite resource, then you dont have "sustainable farming" without using a definition of "sustainable" that would differ a long way from any conventional usage.  Why is solar not an option? What part of the world is this?

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