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The biggest untold story in the world is now out in the open. Despite warnings from the World Bank about the dangers of unchecked climate change  the coal industry has a global pipeline of nearly 1,200 plants planned, 2/3 of which are in India and China. India alone has plans to build a coal fleet nearly twice the size of the entire US coal fleet. But if this pipeline has you thinking that a coal fired future is inevitable think again.  These grandiose plans are an illusion the coal industry seeks to maintain because the truth is the majority of this global pipeline is nothing but vapor.

To understand the reality of the industry's plans for India it's important to understand the basic math on which it relies. India's huge pipeline will require ~2.4 billion tons of coal by 2030. That's two and a half times what the US currently consumes. More importantly, it's nearly five times the amount of coal India produces. To feed this beast India is going to need a herculean effort to increase production.

Let's take an optimistic scenario where Coal India (CIL) – the state owned miner responsible for 90% of domestic supplies - maintains a robust 7% annual growth rate. In this scenario India would increase production to ~ 1.5 billion tons. Despite this mammoth increase in production the country would still face a supply shortfall equal to 920 million tons by 2030 – a shortfall the size of annual US coal demand and 38% of the total supply required for the Indian pipeline. That's a jaw-dropping amount of coal and it's the 'optimistic scenario' because it's based on the fantastical belief that CIL will maintain an annual growth rate it has only achieved twice in the past 10 years.

But this optimistic scenario looks even more doubtful when you take into account the woeful state of the Indian coal sector.  Despite industry spin that 'environmental hurdles' are constraining production the truth is India has simply not invested in the infrastructure necessary to mine and transport coal to power plants. Worse, the permitted mining expansions it does have are under heavy scrutiny as the coal gate scandal has already resulted in the revocation of dozens of coal leases.  

To expand any further the industry will need forest clearances because remaining deposits sit under prime forest land. Getting those permits is already leading to a showdown with activists determined to preserve what's left of India's natural heritage. Which is why Prime Minister Singh's attempts to force CIL to sign fuel supply agreements are so laughable. Without solving fundamental infrastructure problems, or convincing Indian citizens to destroy what's left of the country's  forests, those agreements aren't worth the paper they're printed on.  

More importantly, though, even if CIL defies all past experience (and concerted opposition), the 920 million tons they will still need is roughly the size of the entire international coal market today.  Unless India thinks it can lock down a monopoly on the global market good luck fueling that pipeline. Even Australia's grand plans to more than double its coal exports wouldn't put a dent in this import bill. Speaking of bills…

The more pressing issue is at what cost India is able to secure that supply. Coal prices in the international market have hit a two year low which has caused near hysteria in Australia where billionaires are decrying their inability to lower costs to compete. But the reality is that even these 'cheap' prices are still $90/ton - triple what India pays domestically. But this is likely a temporary lull. Coal prices have been on a steady upward march for the past decade and there are no signs this trend will change course  given cheap, easily accessible reserves are tapped, transportation costs (oil) are rising, and a 'Organization of Coal Exporting Countries' (OCEC) is emerging. Geologically speaking coal may be abundant, but economically speaking cheap coal is dead.

This all comes before local communities who face imminent harm from this expansion make  town halls across the country ring with cries of 'No Coal'. Their movement is quickly joining the ranks of the anti-nuclear movement in terms of its global reach and efficacy at shutting down projects from India to Kosovo, the US to Turkey.

So you see, this enormous pipeline is nothing but an illusion. But don't take it from me. Best to take advice from the Reserve Bank of India who has called for a freeze on lending to this 'distressed sector'. But hey, if you believe the industry go ahead and put your money on the table. Just be aware, it won't have much company.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Betting against coal is a fool's game (5+ / 0-)

    As shown in this graph world coal production increased by 3 billion tonnes a year between the year  2000 and 2010.

    So it is not difficult to imagine that production will be able to continue to grow at less than half that rate to meet India's projected demand over the next 20 years - plus supplies will be freed up as countries like the USA move away from coal.

    So sadly, history does not support your premise at all.

    •  The USA won't move away from coal for a century (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy

      How will we ever get rid of the coal plants?  First we have to shut down all our evil nuclear reactors.  That means more coal plants to replace 20% of our electrical generation.

      We should be moving to 50% nuclear, 50% renewables.  Instead we'll probably end up at 70% coal, 30% renewables.

      •  We're already "moving away" (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bear83, FG, Norm in Chicago

        simply because NG is so cheap.

        I can look up the stats if you want, but coal DID take a sizable hit over the past couple of years (in favor of fracked NG, which is up to twice as bad for the environment than coal even, ugh).

        Note that I did not say (and did not mean to imply) that the use of coal would be eliminated, which clearly it won't be.

        •  Yep, so we get fracking instead of nuclear power (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Nuclear power doesn't pollute the ground water with toxic chemicals like NG fracking does.  So what did we gain?

          What environmental improvement do we get from shutting down the nukes and fracking every square inch of the country and poisoning every well?  NG still produces C02.  Not as much as coal, but orders of magnitude more than nuclear.

          So the anti-nuke crowd has now given us more coal, more NG fraking, and less C02 free energy.

          We are moving backwards.

          •  Blame it on Fukushima (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            John Crapper

            Well that's what you seem to be doing Norm.

            We've got more coal because resourse that would have better been used for devloping sustainable wind, solar & tidal energy were squandered on susidizing nuclear power.

            Let's follow Germany's lead - Let's phase out both coal & nuclear.

            Do we really have to pick our poison?


            "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people." — Howard Zinn

            by peace voter on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:09:13 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes you absolutely have to choose (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Roadbed Guy

              Germany is going to learn the reality of physics the hard way.  When renewables get to a certain percentage, when it's dark, cold and not windy, the electric grid will collapse.

              Not may collapse, will collapse into constant rolling blackouts.  Germany will be forced to keep coal plants running for baseload.  As C02 keeps going up 3% per year, pretty soon they'll wish they'd kept their nukes.

              And blame what on Fukushima?  That "environmentalists" like you use it as an excuse to keep burning coal?

              Fukushima didn't cause Huricane Sandy.  It didn't cause floods and droughts and heat waves.  C02 does that.  

              Come on, I want to hear you say it.  I want to hear you say that Fukushima was worse than climate change.

              •  Yeah, "Germany phasing out coal" is (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Norm in Chicago

                a really bizarre meme since they're actually increasing its use.

                But I guess if people keep saying it often enough, it becomes true.

                At least that is what has happened here at DailyKos!! (ironically called a "reality based" site to boot!!!!).

          •  Safe nuclear is an illusion. Give it up. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            It's an oxymoron.  The economics of it don't work.  People are not going to tolerate its expansion.  Clean coal is also an oxymoron.  Coming to grips with these two facts makes our need to address climate change from the consumption end as well as the renewable energy end more critical.  

            If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

            by John Crapper on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:11:11 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  So you deny climate change then? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Roadbed Guy

              Doesn't matter if nuclear power isn't absolutely safe. The question is, is it safer than C02 increasing 3% for year for the entire 21st century?

              Is nuclear power safer than heat waves, droughts and superstorms?   YES!!!

              But it doesn't matter now.  The world had to choose between nuclear power and C02 driven climate change.  Climate change was chosen by the "environmentalists" as the best option.  Have fun with that.

    •  Betting for coal is a fool's game. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peace voter

      Excellent diary, which sadly attracted dead ender thinkers who focus on markets while unable to fathom the rapid influence of climate change.


      Demand will much more likely be moderated by collapse of market demand due toextended epic droughts.

      The move toward getting off fossil fuels is snowballing...

      .... and kossacks who want to work for a better way can join the movement to Divest.


      Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

      by divineorder on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:25:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I keep hearing this type of thing at DailyKos (0+ / 0-)
        The move toward getting off fossil fuels is snowballing...
        But out in the real world is there absolutely zero evidence that that's true.

        In fact there's another extant diary describing how fossil fuel use has increased at 3 % a year over the past decade, which is MUCH faster than during the 90s (1% a year).

        The statistics / facts show just the opposite of what you say.   Which is absolutely tragic, but I really can't see what good there is in pretending that these dire facts are not true.

  •  The world has twice as much in coal reserves as (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Norm in Chicago, Roadbed Guy

    oil and gas combined and oil and gas supplies are peaking.
    civilization runs on fossil energy which barely dropped during the Great Recession. In 50 years coal will make up the majority of energy used with oil and gas being exhausted.

  •  This is why I support nuclear power (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy, condorcet

    Because you can see right here what the alternative is.  Don't believe me?  Go read the diary again.  And again.  And again.

    I don't care how long you choose to deny reality, here it is staring us in the face.  The suicidal, anti-science anti-nuke brigade continues to drive the world towards coal.

    US companies could be building nuclear reactors and installing them in India.  Giving us good engineering jobs and an export industry.

    But no, because people decided 40 years ago that nukes were the work of the devil, science be damned, and coal was king.  C02 is up 3% this year, proud of yourselves yet.

    Every anti-nuke nutjob who reads this, you are the reason coal will be burning for 100 years.

    •  I suspect that many DKer's are! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, Norm in Chicago
      C02 is up 3% this year, proud of yourselves yet.
      Based on the gloating that I've seen around these parts about the complete shutdown of Japan's nuclear power plants that played a major role in the current year's increase in emissions (with "current year" meaning 2011 because obviously 2012's stats aren't out yet . . . ).
    •  God are you an idiot (0+ / 0-)

      Way to support something Norm.  Who the fuck would listen to you.

      Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

      by yet another liberal on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 06:50:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not the one you need to listen to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy

        C02 is up 3% per year from 2000 to 2012.  It will be up 3% this year, next year, and every year after that.

        Are you listening?  Or are you denying.  I'm done worrying about this issue, bring on the climate change.  The only thing I'm doing now is watching to see how bad things have to get before people like you wake up.

        Maybe in 2020?

    •  You are not helping your cause n/t (0+ / 0-)
      •  Why not? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy

        Because I tell it like it is?  Because I don't sugar coat it with lies to let the anti-nuke crowd live in denial for another decade.

        C02 levels are skyrocketing, and we keep buring coal.  My cause should be your cause, and you should be doing everything you can to help.

        But denial is easier, isn't it?

    •  But nuclear has no future either (4+ / 0-)

      Due to their own greed.  There is a safe way to build nuclear power plants, put them deep underground.  See the following article from the October 1971 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on how it could have been done.  But that would have cost more, so it wasn't done.

      Also, that was 40 years ago, before Fukushima and Chernobyl and Three Mile Island poisoned the well for the future of nuclear. Had those plants been far underground, there would have been no release of radioactivity into the biosphere, and nuclear would still remain an option.  

      Now?  I'm not so sure that the nuclear business could get it right given a second try.  All you have to do is pay attention to the current progress on Plant Vogtle to see that they have learned nothing from the history of nuclear power.

      •  Agree, and they can't get the market to support (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        peace voter

        their fail gambles so their dangerous dreams will die a well deserved death.

        Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

        by divineorder on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:27:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  And C02 will go up, up, up. (0+ / 0-)

          How high is too high?  Many say we're already there.  Superstorms on both coasts.  

          If you think nuclear power is the greater danger, well then I hope you don't live on the coast.  Enjoy the climate change.  The coal will keep burning and burning and burning.

          •  Hit and a miss there podna (0+ / 0-)
            can't get the market to support  

            their fail gambles

            IF nuclear was THE answer, the market would be there.  

            Plus, drought is the larger danger to our civilization than the storms.

            Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

            by divineorder on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 08:58:04 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Drought is caused by climate change (0+ / 0-)

              Burning coal causes droughts, nuclear power doesn't.  So you're already on the wrong side of civilization.

              The market doesn't support nuclear power because it's expensive and hard.  That's the price for being C02 free.  By comparison, coal and natural gas are cheap and easy.

              The oil, coal and gas industries don't want nuclear power.  They don't want electric cars charged by nuclear, they want you buying gasoline.  And congratulations, you fell for their lies.

              Maybe this will make sense to you.  If Single Payer was THE answer for healthcare, the market would be there.  Are you saying Single Payer is bad because the big for-profit insurance companies hate it?

              Wake up.

              •  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (0+ / 0-)
                The market doesn't support nuclear power because it's expensive and hard.

                Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

                by divineorder on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:39:00 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Don't cry for me, denier (0+ / 0-)

                  Cry for the C02 emissions that are increasing year after year as you laugh.  And what exactly are you laughing at?  That we continue to strip mind and burn coal by trainloads per hour?

                  Climate change is that amusing to you?  Huh...

                  •  The only thing you came here for (0+ / 0-)

                    Was to call everybody names.  You obviously don't know anything.  You don't care about global warming.  You care about being a dick.  You haven't said one useful thing.  You are definitely hurting your supposed cause and you're too stupid to even see that.

                    Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

                    by yet another liberal on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 11:24:46 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I care about reducing C02 (0+ / 0-)

                      I put all options on the table, renewables as much as possible plus the nuclear base load to support them. I care about reducing C02 today, about shutting down coal plants today.

                      I support the technology that is producing 20% of our electricity C02 free. I support doing EVERYTHING to reduce C02.

                      If the anti-nuke crowd has a sad, I really don't care.  They are straight up suicidal. Their actions have increased coal use, increased NG fracking, and increased C02 levels. That is absolute fact.

                      But tell me, will calling me a dick stop C02 from going up 3% next year?  Did it make you feel better?
                      And if "nuclear or coal" isn't useful to you, I can't help you. Enjoy the climate change, that's my plan. I can't do anything with these anti-science climate change deniers.

                      But hurt my cause?  Anyone who recognized the reality of our situation would already support nuclear 100%.  Those who reject it have already denied reality and facts. So what argument do you suggest will work on those who chose coal over nuclear and are quite happy about it?

                      Germany and Japan have increased C02 emissions. That is fact.  If pointing out reality hurts my cause, then the cause is lost. Happy global warming!!

                      •  Ok (0+ / 0-)

                        So you made it through 2 paragraphs before you start with your "anti-nuke crowd" rhetoric.

                        You came in here to start a pie fight by calling people names.

                        You're not even an expert on the topic.  You just carry around this chip on your shoulder and you just make up strawman after strawman, accusation after accusation.

                        One thing's for sure, nobody's paying you to do this.  It comes straight from your heart.

                        Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

                        by yet another liberal on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 12:52:19 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  No, I want people to accept reality. (0+ / 0-)

                          Rejecting nuclear power means more coal and more C02.  That's not a strawman, it's a fact.

                          And your only reply is "stop being mean and calling people names"?

                          You're right, I'm not being paid for this and I'm wasting my time on people who aren't serious about ending coal use.

                          End coal first, then end nuclear if possible. Anything else is suicidal. Sorry you find that so hard to accept.

                          •  You can keep rationalizing (0+ / 0-)

                            If you want to have a civil discussion, then drop the "anti-nuke crowd" bullshit.

                            You can't make the dangers of nuclear power disappear by willing it.  It is physics.

                            Personally, I am not out and out completely opposed to nuclear power, but I seriously think if we have 1000s of them then we have some new (and serious) problems on our hands.

                            Why don't you start addressing the issues instead.  If you want people to accept reality, then you don't waltz in and call them "nutjobs".

                            Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

                            by yet another liberal on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 01:22:03 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Address what issues? (0+ / 0-)

                            I wanted the spent fuel recycled, but no one even wants to move it an inch.

                            I wanted the spent fuel moved to underground storage, but that's not going to happen. It will be stored "Fukushima style" instead.

                            I want investments in new reactors and thorium, but no one else does.

                            The only thing that is going to change people's minds is when climate change smacks them in the face. How many more droughts and superstorms do we need?  C02 is the only issue to me.

                            We can't afford the luxury of rejecting nuclear power when we need to go C02 negative right now.

                            I can waste time debating "issues" with people who won't listen, or I can tell it to them straight.  Yes nuclear power has real dangers, but the dangers of C02 are more.  The dangers of climate change don't disappear because renewable tech XYZ is "just around the corner". That kind of thinking is part of why C02 is up 3% each year since 2000.

                            I had those "nice" discussions like you want 12 years ago. Look where we ended up. Time to stop the denial.

      •  Maybe if we invested in the technology (0+ / 0-)

        Go look at the nuclear engineering departments at universities around the nation.  They're in shambles.  Professors don't want to work in the field, and students don't want to enter it.  Why subject one's self to being beaten over the head by "environmentalists" for an entire career for the sin of developing C02 free energy?

        If we had national priorities to support and improve nuclear power, then we would have improved reactor designs.

        But when every innovation is squashed and research is demonized, then yes, Plant Vogtle is going to install existing designs, because there are no new designs.

        Do you get it yet?  Three Mile Island did poision the well, because a bunch of coal and oil interests convinced America that nuclear was more dangerous than C02.  And it looks like a lot of people here still believe it.

        •  Fission nuclear is a 3-legged unstable stool. (0+ / 0-)

          1.  The safe operation of all things nuclear ( not limited to power).    
          2.  A solution to nuclear waste storage.
          3.  Closely related to number 2 but needing to be mentioned in its own right is the close relationship between the fuel cycle and the ability to produce weapons (either dirty bombs or the sophisticated ones).

          All 3 are unstable and render nuclear a poor option for energy generation.  

          And the biggest sign of that is the inability of the nuclear industry to survive without heavy subsidy.  The argument is over - nuclear is dead.  End of story.

          If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

          by John Crapper on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:27:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  They believe it because it's true (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          John Crapper

          There is no way to make above ground "containments" contain the danger of nuclear power.   Radiation releases ARE more dangerous that CO2.  While we can do things to sequester carbon, like plant more forests or farm with biochar, sequestration of isotopes is much, much harder.  

          Bio-accumulation of radioisotopes has been shown to work.  Jimson weed is known to sequester plutonium, which can then be buried very deep and taken out of the environment.  But that only works on localized contamination.  Fukushima-Daichi is still spilling its guts and the ocean currents are spreading it across the North Pacific.

          Speaking of oceans, the rise in sea level from global warming also poses problems for the nuclear industry.  In their siting to be close to cooling water, they have also made themselves vulnerable to the rising waters.  If and when the Greenland ice sheet melts, San Onofre and other coastal nuke plants are going to be under water.  If and when the Antarctic ice sheet melts, it will take Vogtle and a few more with it.

          Nuclear power always put off the problem of waste disposal, just as the fossil fuel industry put off the problem of CO2 emissions.  We're now at the point where both options are effectively foreclosed unless we come up with some new thinking.  Putting the nuke plants a thousand feet underground in abandoned mines is a solution for the nuke problem.  And sequestering carbon on a planetary scale is a solution for the fossil fuel problem.  Which one is more doable?

  •  I support conservation first (5+ / 0-)

    American buildings are leaky, wasteful dinosaurs. Renovation of existing buildings with improved insulation, air sealing, natural lighting, and modern HVAC can reduce their energy usage by 30% - 50%.

    The costs of renovations to existing buildings can be offset by lower utility bills in as little as 5 years. The incemental costs of building green in new buildings can pay off even sooner.

    This is not just about how we generate electricity. It's about how we use it.

    Filibuster reform now. No more Gentleman's agreements.

    by bear83 on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 06:58:44 AM PST

  •  The only thing that will stop coal in India... (0+ / 0-) if people are sufficiently put-off by the scandal surrounding coal-mining licenses ("Coalgate," predictably enough) that the government is hamstrung in issuing new licenses.  But that didn't happen with cell phones (the 2G licenses were given out corruptly but it didn't prevent 3G auctions) and it likely won't happen with coal.  

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 09:07:55 AM PST

  •  Where are the moderators when you need them? (0+ / 0-)

    I had several questions about the diary, but they were substantive, not ad hominem.  I'll have to look elsewhere for answers.

    This discussion needs to be purged entirely and its more undisciplined flamers warned.  There's no place for this kind of invective on DKos.  Maybe World News Daily....

    (-7.62,-7.33) l'Enfer, c'est les autres.

    by argomd on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 12:13:32 PM PST

  •  I disagree with the article. (0+ / 0-)

    I didn't click on most of the links because they were in reference to arguments that miss the point but the last one which claims the India Reserve Bank is calling for a freeze doesn't even mention coal.

    India has one of the largest economies in the world yet it is still relatively undeveloped relative to the likes of Japan, the US and EU. It is one of the "BRIC" countries that is trying to expand quickly and is limited only by how fast it can overcome the corruption and inefficiency in it bureaucratic institutions and add or upgrade its infrastructure.

    Of course India is going to burn coal, it is sitting on large reserves of the stuff. It has some nuclear generation, which it is also expanding, some wind which is harder to integrate onto a creaky grid and still maintain stable voltages, solar is still a boutique option and won't be a significant contributor any time soon. It's natural gas reserves are relevant but limited. If your point was simply to contest the rate at which it expands its coal use, O-kay but it WILL increase significantly with time barring some calamitous event.

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