Anti-Coal Mania May Lead to Pro-Coal Coalitions

Anti-Coal Mania May Lead to Pro-Coal Coalitions
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File

It was French President Emmanuel Macron’s moment to shine.

Leaders from across the globe descended on France last week for the One Planet Summit, sponsored by Macron’s government, the United Nations and the World Bank.

“We are losing the battle” against global warming, he said in a speech to attendees. The international community is “not moving fast enough” to address this “permanent emergency,” which he labeled “the challenge of our generation.”

“In 50, 60 or 100 years, five, 10 or 15 heads of government who are present today will not be there anymore,” he added. “It is decided that they will disappear along with their populations.”

The real question, which of course was not asked, should have been, “Why are we here?”

Why is there another summit on global warming now when one just concluded a month ago? And why was that event hosted by Fiji, which global warming activists claim is in danger of going under the sea because of rising ocean levels, but held in Germany?

The conference in France plowed little new ground. How could it? It called for financial and energy regulations and the standard forced march from fossil fuels. The World Bank promised to stop funding oil and gas projects in the near future, and Macron announced grants for 13 American scientists so they can live in France and pursue their global warming research until President Donald Trump, who has canceled funding for most global warming research, leaves office.

Macron said it was held to mark the two-year anniversary of the Paris Climate Accords. A more likely explanation is that the entire purpose was to uninvite one guest – Trump – as punishment for pulling out of the Paris accords earlier this year.

Macron’s goal is to isolate Trump, who not only withdrew from the Paris agreement but also sent representatives to the Bonn conference to promote clean coal technology’s vital role in the world’s energy future, only to be heckled by protestors and then shouted down repeatedly by attendees.

But Trump’s views may soon be taken far more seriously. Quietly, the president has begun to lay the groundwork for what would amount to a clean coal alliance that could include China, Japan, India, Bangladesh, Poland, South Africa, Australia, the Philippines and even Germany.

“There are 1,600 new coal plants being built around the world, and demand for coal and gas is growing,” David Banks, who represented the U.S. at the Bonn summit, said. “It’s in the global interest that, if these fuels are going to be used anyway, it must be done as cleanly as possible.”

Germany talks a big game about clean energy, but it still relies on coal for 40 percent of its power and doesn’t expect to hit its Paris accord carbon reduction targets in either 2020 or 2030.

China no longer builds a coal plant per week as it did through much of the last 10 years. But it still depends on coal for more than 40 percent of its energy and expects to burn 47 percent of the coal consumed around the world in 2035. No wonder Germany’s Angela Merkel and China’s Xi Jinping didn’t attend Macron’s meeting.

India, where 240 million people live without electricity and coal accounts for 80 percent of the power the country does produce, is also ripe for membership. In fact, Arvind Subramanian, India’s chief economic advisor, rails against “carbon imperialism” and proposed the idea that Trump appears to be building on.

Bangladesh, which plans to build 25 coal plants over the next five years, also finds itself in the pro-coal camp. “There has to be balance,” the country’s lead economist told the New York Times. “It’s not just saying OK, we’ll go for renewables. It’s very complicated because people need energy.”

It is indeed complicated. In Bonn, the global warming community mocked Trump’s representatives, but we cannot achieve the goals they say are vital to survival – temperature increases held to 2 degrees Celsius or less – without clean coal technology.

The U.N. report that set the goal at 2 degrees Celsius “envisions 116 scenarios in which global temperatures are prevented from rising more than 2C,” says Wired magazine. “In 101 of them, that goal is accomplished by sucking massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

The only hope for pulling it off is carbon capture – the technology Trump’s representatives were plugging in Bonn but couldn’t get an invite to discuss in France.

Brian McNicoll is a conservative columnist and freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va. He has worked as a newspaper writer, editor and columnist, as a senior writer for The Heritage Foundation and as director of communications for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. 

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