Culture 3 min read

New Study Shows That Coal is on the Way Out

The American coal economy is no longer affordable. In fact, a new survey shows that the majority of coal-fired power plants could close within the next decade.

It is now clear that coal is no longer sustainable. But, will it actually be replaced? ¦ Pixabay

It is now clear that coal is no longer sustainable. But, will it actually be replaced? ¦ Pixabay

Like oil and gas, coal is a fossil fuel whose story began hundreds of million years ago.

Easily mined, cheap, and ready for use, coal substantially contributes to the global energy mix.

The uses of coal are numerous, but it’s mostly used as a fuel to run power plants. With nearly a 40 percent share, coal is the number one source of electricity generation.

But the same thing that makes coal attractive as a highly combustible fuel is it’s largest drawback. By burning coal, we release carbon and other greenhouse gases that were trapped for millions of years into the air.

Coal comes on top of all fossil fuels in terms of pollution, accounting for most carbon generation, and fueling climate change.

Fossil fuels, headed by coal, have powered the industrial revolution, but now they’re leaving the planet on the brink of global climatic collapse.

Coal Economy Coming to a Standstill

The rise of renewables, like solar, wind, and hydrogen, is spelling the end for coal.

Hundreds of coal plants across the U.S. closed up shop and even “clean coal” might not be able to save them. The “coal bubble” is swelling and experts predict it could burst within a decade or so.

In an alarming report by 13 federal agencies, scientists warned that if no significant measures to curb global warming are taken, the American economy would shrink by 10 percent by the end of the century.

The last administration, through the anti-coal Clean Power Plan, set a carbon standard for power stations, aiming to cut 32 percent of carbon emissions by 2030.

However, under attack from the American fossil fuel industry, the plan may possibly be repealed.

Read More: Germany To Shut Down All of Its Coal-Fired Power Plants

The government scrapped Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) and replaced it with Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE).

Under the ACE, coal-fired power plants are required to cut carbon emissions by only 1 to 2 percent by 2035, and only within their fence lines, not across the whole electricity sector like the CPP was planning.

The U.S. Enters the “Coal Cost Crossover”

If the White House wants to grow the economy and achieve global “energy dominance” by uplifting the coal industry, it may have to give it a second thought.

It’s becoming less and less economically viable to keep coal-fired stations in the U.S.

Energy Innovation is an American think tank specializing in clean energy and works for identifying the best strategies to curb GHG emissions.

In its latest report, the nonpartisan organization claims the United States:

“Has officially entered the ‘coal cost crossover’ – where existing coal is increasingly more expensive than cleaner alternatives.”

Per Energy Innovation, solar and wind plants will replace about 74 percent of the U.S. coal fleet in “an immediate savings to customers”, and by 2025, 86 percent of coal plants will close.

“US coal plants are in more danger than ever before,” Mike O’Boyle, director of electricity policy at Energy Innovation, told CNN Business. “Nearly three-quarters of US coal plants are already ‘zombie coal,’ or the walking dead.”

The White House’s coal-stained vision notwithstanding, local governments have to plan for a smooth transition to solar and wind by phasing out old coal-fired power plants gradually on a case-by-case basis.

Local decision-makers should study their options for the most cost-effective: “replacement for coal, which may include combinations of local or remote wind, solar, transmission, storage, and demand response.”

Read More: Milestone: Australia Chooses Climate Change Over Coal

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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    Lisa Gaillard April 02 at 9:47 am GMT

    Solar Panel are absolutely the best alternative. It can provide financial savings in the long run. 😀

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