Oops: Europe’s rising and renewable-driven energy prices are causing a coal resurgence
posted at 3:21 pm on January 6, 2014 by Erika Johnsen
Question: What happens when you forcibly implement an overly ambitious plan to overhaul your entire energy infrastructure by ridding yourself of both nuclear power and coal, instituting on outright ban on hydraulic fracturing and hence natural-gas exploration, and relentlessly subsidize politically preferred forms of so-called “green” energy that investors and consumers aren’t choosing to use of their own volition?
Answer, via Bloomberg:
Across the continent’s mining belt, from Germany to Poland and the Czech Republic, utilities such as Vattenfall AB, CEZ AS and PGE SA are expanding open-pit mines that produce lignite. The moist, brown form of the fossil fuel packs less energy and more carbon than more frequently burned hard coal.
The projects go against the grain of European Union rules limiting emissions and pushing cleaner energy. Alarmed at power prices about double U.S. levels, policy makers are allowing the expansion of coal mines that were scaled back in the past two decades, stirring a backlash in the targeted communities.
“It’s absurd,” said Petra Roesch, mayor of Proschim, a 700-year-old village southeast of Berlin that would be uprooted by Vattenfall’s mine expansion. “Germany wants to transition toward renewable energy, and we’re being deprived of our land.”
Lignite demand worldwide is forecast to rise as much as 5.4 percent by 2020, according to the International Energy Agency. At the same time, it estimates consumption must fall 10 percent over that period to achieve goals endorsed by EU and world leaders to hold global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.
It’s no coincidence that Germany has some of the highest rates of renewable generation as well as some of the highest energy prices in the developed world. Their and several other European countries’ ambitions to self-revolutionize their energy sectors turned out to be a recipe for the precise disaster that they were conscientiously looking to avoid — i.e., more coal. This is what happens when you let big-government delusions of “green” grandeur commandeer policy, and the Obama administration seems determined not to learn that universal lesson. Environmentalists and Obama-admin apologists will argue all day long that the administration’s forthcoming rules to regulation emissions in both new and existing coal plants are simply leading a trend that’s happening anyway with the advent of natural gas, but should natural gas or general electricity prices start to significantly rise, it’s possible that coal would once again become an attractive energy choice, as it is in Europe — but the Obama administration is deliberately preempting that possibility. Fortunately, we’re in the midst of a bona fide energy boom that has been heavily dependent on hydraulic fracturing, but the Obama administration isn’t doing too much to actively rule out “necessarily skyrocketing” energy prices from our future.