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Editorial comment

Let me start with two facts: coal is the fastest-growing fuel source in the world, powering the best global economies; and the world has trillions of tonnes of this low-cost energy resource. We must continue to use this rich supply of coal for maximum benefit.


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Let me start with two facts: coal is the fastest-growing fuel source in the world, powering the best global economies; and the world has trillions of tonnes of this low-cost energy resource. We must continue to use this rich supply of coal for maximum benefit.

Secure, reliable coal plays a central role in global economic development and is one of the chief drivers propelling nations ‘back to black’. Emerging Asian economies, which lead GDP growth during boom times, continue to impress observers during tough times. China, India and Indonesia, for instance, are among the world’s fastestgrowing economies, and they are setting the pace for the rest of the world, powering their prosperity with coal. Access to low-cost electricity, largely fuelled by coal, also improves our standard of living and is essential to the Asian success story. The Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, says that: “Our vision is not just of economic growth, but also of a growth which would improve the life of the common man.”

Greater use of coal is the ultimate sustainable solution, addressing the ‘3E’ goals of: energy security, economic stimulus and environmental progress. A three-step path for greater use of coal will help people around the world to live longer and better lives. To achieve these 3E goals, we must:

  1. Develop clean, new coal-fuelled generating plants.
  2. Launch a coal-to-gas (CTG) and coal-to-liquids (CTL) industry.
  3. Advance carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.

Let me take these one at a time. First, coal, which has been the fastest-growing fuel source for each of the past six years, will continue to be the lead fuel for world energy needs for the foreseeable future. Coal is projected to fuel more energy demand growth than natural gas, nuclear, hydro, solar and wind combined through 2025. More than 200 GW of electricity, representing 700 million tpa of demand, are under construction worldwide, generating 4.5 million jobs and US$ 1 trillion in economic impacts.

Second, we must keep our energy alternatives in perspective. The world’s most productive oil fields are depleting and come from increasingly risky sources. Similarly, the fastest-growing nations for natural gas production are Russia and Iran, who are discussing a natural gas cartel.

In the US, CTL technologies could enhance the oil supply by about 10%, according to the National Coal Council, and deployment of CTG technologies could provide 15% of annual natural gas consumption. CTG technology also captures a nearly pure stream of CO2 that can be stored or recycled to recover more oil, which leads me to my third point: coal’s vital role in energy security and economic stimulus carries over into environmental progress, making black the new green.

Coal’s environmental success story is enormous. In Phase One, clean coal was achieved by technology investments that have enabled coal used for electricity to triple since 1970 as regulated emissions/MW-h declined more than 80%. In Phase Two, green coal will continue the progress, moving toward near-zero emissions through efficient plants with improved carbon footprints, gasification and CCS. Studies project that coal with CCS would be less expensive than natural gas with CCS, nuclear or wind. Coal is the greatest energy resource on earth, providing the solution to achieve the 3E goals. Let’s combine our greatest energy resource with the greatest power on earth – our own willpower – and continue building a sustainable energy future with coal.