From the Editor
By Liu Baowen
In the recorded history of mankind, the evolution of civilization cannot be separated from two major aspects—the development and utilization of tools and natural resources. This has been the case in both the East and the West, whether at the early stages of formation or during the more advanced development of a civilization. As a natural resource, coal has played a central role in the advancement of civilization.
By Zhang Yuzhuo
In 2012, global coal consumption increased by 2.5%, far less than the average growth rate of 4.4% over the past decade, although it remained the fossil energy source undergoing the most rapid growth in consumption. In addition, in 2012 coal accounted for 29.9% of global primary energy consumption, the highest percentage since 1970.1 For the foreseeable future, the role of coal as an important global energy source, especially in non-OECD countries, will remain unchanged.
By Benjamin Sporton
Despite the immense challenges of delivering energy to the 1.3 billion people who lack it, the World Bank’s recent decision to limit financing for coal-fired power plants could risk limiting the use of one of the most affordable and effective tools for combating energy poverty. The bank’s decision to limit funding for coal to all but rare circumstances, with a deliberate switch to gas as a preferred energy source, will place new hurdles in the path to development for many of the world’s poorest countries.
By Nikki Williams
The year 2013 is a pivotal time for the Australian coal industry. As this issue of Cornerstone is published, a national election has recently been concluded. Whichever political party takes office, the new government will be responsible for setting the nation on a different, more prudent, cohesive, and productive course. For coal, Australia’s second-largest export industry, it is vital that economic, taxation, regulatory, and budget policies provide the framework to strengthen coal’s productivity and international competitiveness.
By Robin Batterham
The International Energy Agency has projected that coal use will continue to grow and will overtake oil as the most used energy source as soon as 2017. In the first article of this two-part series, the importance of innovation was highlighted as a necessity to keep the coal industry competitive. However, even if the coal industry maintains financial competitiveness, it must also maintain the public license to operate, which could be threatened by the perception of a lack of sustainability.
By Nicholas Newman
Germany is the biggest energy market in Europe. It ranks fourth in the world for consumption of coal and sixth in consumption of oil and natural gas. In terms of electricity generation, the country has an installed capacity of 165 GW, of which 88.4 GW is thermal, 12.1 GW is nuclear (nine reactors), 29 GW is wind, and 24.9 GW is solar PV (at end-2011). Imports account for two-thirds of Germany’s energy consumption.
By Hubertus Bardt and Jennifer Striebeck
Energy policy and environmental policy go hand in hand at the European Union (EU) level. With the adoption of the ambitious 20-20-20 targets in 2009 a clear policy statement has been made by 27 EU member states: calling for a 20% cut in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020, compared with 1990 levels; a 20% increase in the share of renewable sources in the energy mix; and a 20% cut in energy consumption.
By Serge Perineau
Converting coal into petroleum looks like a new alchemy to our fellow human beings, most of whom remain unaware it is possible. Given the availability of coal and the scarcity of oil in many regions of the world, however, several nations and companies have shown great interest in this industry, leading to tangible developments since the beginning of this decade.
By Daniel Gros and Jonas Teusch
European coal consumption had been in decline for several decades. However, coal has recently made a surprising comeback, regaining market share since 2010 mainly at the expense of natural gas. The opposite has happened in the U.S. where the relationship between coal and gas consumption was rather stable until about 2005, but the shale gas revolution has since led to a sharp decline in the consumption of coal relative to gas.
By Shu Geping
Direct coal liquefaction (DCL) is the most effective approach for the production of liquid products from coal; the energy conversion efficiency can be 60% or greater. DCL also offers important strategic and practical benefits to China in regards to solving problems such as shortages of petroleum resources, balancing the energy mix to rely more heavily on strategically secure coal reserves, as well as a sustained, steady growth of the national economy.
By Weng Li, Men Zhuowu, and Bu Yifeng
Indirect coal-to-liquids technology consists of a two-step process using coal as a feedstock that is first gasified to produce synthesis gas (CO+H2). The syngas is then converted into hydrocarbon compounds and other products via Fischer–Tropsch synthesis. The liquid fuels produced through ICTL are environmentally friendly. The advantage of such a high-quality diesel is that it can be used when there are strict constraints regarding automobile exhaust gases or it can be used as a blending stock to upgrade lower quality diesel.
What Would It Take for an Environmental NGO to Accept CTL: An Exclusive Interview with Brad Crabtree from the Great Plains Institute
By Holly Krutka
Environmental NGOs have generally opposed the expansion of producing liquid fuels from coal. Cornerstone sat down with Brad Crabtree from the Great Plains Institute to discuss what can and should be done to increase acceptance of CTL from an environmental perspective. The Great Plains Institute is a nonprofit organization based in the U.S. Midwest, largely focused on accelerating the transition to a renewable and low-carbon energy mix by 2050.
Society & Culture
By Cy Butner, Elaine Cullen, Charles Fairhurst, and Elizabeth Eide
The National Research Council of the National Academies has recently concluded a study of emerging workforce trends in the U.S. energy and mining industries, and the resulting report provides important messages for all of these industries. The study covered oil, natural gas, coal, carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS), nuclear, geothermal, solar, wind, and nonfuel minerals, along with the electric grid (including the Smart Grid), workforce education and training, workforce safety and health, U.S. federal government workforce issues, and workforce data and data sources.
By Gwenne Henricks
Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines, and diesel-electric locomotives. For us, being a global leader means that we must be constantly vigilant. You don’t need a global footprint like ours to recognize the landscape today is more competitive than ever. Our competitors are growing exponentially around the world. There are plenty of companies vying to be the next Caterpillar.
The World Bank has announced that it will no longer fund coal-fired power stations except in a few rare cases, in a move pioneered by the bank’s President, Jim Yong Kim, and now backed by the board. In the past five years the Bank has financially supported over US$5 billion in funding for new coal-fired power plants.
The most recent release of the Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report estimated that energy from renewable sources will overtake natural gas as soon as 2016.
Kenneth Fairfax, a career diplomat in the U.S. State Department, will replace Richard Jones as the IEA Deputy Executive Director.
Globally there are numerous conferences and meetings geared toward the coal and energy industries. The table below highlights a few such events. If you would like your event listed in Cornerstone, please contact the Executive Editor at email@example.com.
The Australian government has announced that it will end the tax on carbon emissions on 30 June 2014, and has proposed that the carbon tax be replaced by an emissions trading scheme linked to the European Union ETS. The change is projected to save the average Australian household approximately US$350 annually.
The WCA is organizing an International Coal & Climate Summit in Warsaw during the November climate change negotiations. The speakers confirmed as of early September are listed.