The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
By Laura Beans
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, coal has been the fastest-growing energy source worldwide. It is often called the "dirtiest" of all fossil fuels and currently accounts for about 45 percent of global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to the International Energy Agency (EIA).
Recently, the influx of coal divestment from major global industry players has been encouraging. Earlier this month, the World Bank announced it was significantly scaling back funding for coal-fired power plants after releasing the report Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience in June. Citing CO2 emissions and their influence on global climate change, the Bank said it would limit financial assistance to “only rare circumstances.”
Then, according to Climate News Network (CNN), the US Export-Import Bank announced it had decided not to support funding for a multi-million dollar coal-fired power plant in Vietnam.
Shortly thereafter, the European Investment Bank (EIB)—the world’s largest public financial institution—followed suit, introducing new loan lending criteria which would rule out future financial support for coal powered energy. Additionally, there were indications the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development could be bringing in coal-lending restrictions as well.
“Coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuel power sources—polluting local environments, impacting on people’s health and contributing heavily to climate change,” said Sebastien Godinot, economist at the World Wildlife Fund's European policy office. “It is now time for all international financial institutions and especially the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to follow the EIB’s example and to clean up their acts, too.”
But there is the larger picture here: the world is using coal for energy generation like never before, and projections are for consumption to grow by at least a third by 2040. With coal prices falling and natural gas prices rising, the EIA says coal’s share of U.S. power generation in the first four months of 2013 averaged 39.5 percent, compared with 35.4 percent in the same period last year.
The shale gas boom in the U.S. means record amounts of relatively cheap U.S. coal are now available for export. The EIA says that U.S. coal exports in 2012 equalled more than 115 million tons—more than double the 2009 figure.
The EU is by far the biggest customer for U.S. coal, with exports to the UK alone going up by about 70 percent in 2012. A big jump in UK coal use is deemed to be largely responsible for a four percent rise in UK CO2 emissions last year. The U.S. accounted for 65 percent of Europe’s increased coal consumption.
CNN reports Germany—the EU’s economic powerhouse and a country often regarded as a leader in cutting CO2 emissions—is gradually upping its coal use.
It all makes grim reading for those hoping to limit CO2 emissions and prevent runaway climate change. Reports from the IEA, based on work by thousands of scientists, emphasize that little time remains to cut emissions and avoid a climate catastrophe. And, warns CNN, as U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been falling over the past four years, watch for a rise in 2013.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Oil rigs around the world keep pulling crude oil out of the ground, but the global pandemic has sent shockwaves into the market. The supply is up, but demand has plummeted now that industry has ground to a halt, highways are empty, and airplanes are parked in hangars.
Under an agreement negotiated by community groups — represented by NRDC and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project — the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will remove thousands of lead water pipes by 2026 in order to address the chronically high lead levels in the city's drinking water and protect residents' health.
By Dave Cooke
So, they finally went and did it — the Trump administration just finalized a rule to undo requirements on manufacturers to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger cars and trucks. Even with the economy at the brink of a recession, they went forward with a policy they know is bad for consumers — their own analysis shows that American drivers are going to spend hundreds of dollars more in fuel as a result of this stupid policy — but they went ahead and did it anyway.
By Richard Connor
A blood test that screens for more than 50 types of cancer could help doctors treat patients at an earlier stage than previously possible, a new study shows. The method was used to screen for more than 50 types of cancer — including particularly deadly variants such as pancreatic, ovarian, bowel and brain.
Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control showed a larger number of young people coming down with COVID-19 than first expected, with patients under the age of 45 comprising more than a third of all cases, and one in five of those patients requiring hospitalization. That also tends to be the group most likely to use e-cigarettes.