Friday, February 08 09:15:06
Europe, which prides itself on it's use of green technology and it's adherence to international agreements on climate change is actually increasing it's use of coal and other sulfurous energy while the US switches to new cheap gas which has much less impact on carbon accumulation in the atmosphere.
In the United States, natural gas is now frequently less expensive than coal for power, so demand for the hard, black fuel has plummeted. Ships are steaming the coal around the world instead. U.S. coal exports to Europe were up 26 percent in the first nine months of 2012 over the same period in 2011. Exports to China have increased, too.
"It's been very welcome that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been going down because of the switch to gas," said David Baldock, executive director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy in London. "But if we're simply diverting the coal somewhere else, particularly to Europe, a lot of those benefits are draining away" according to The Washington Post today.
In Germany, which by some measures is pursuing the most wide-ranging green goals of any major industrialized country, a 2011 decision to shutter nuclear power plants means that domestically produced lignite, also known as brown coal, is filling the gap . Power plants that burn the sticky, sulfurous, high-emissions fuel are running at full throttle, with many tallying 2012 as their highest-demand year since the early 1990s. Several new coal power plants have been unveiled in recent months - even though solar panel installations more than doubled last year.
Europe seems to be offsetting the gain it is receiving as a result of a depressed economy and the consequent fall in emissions levels against an increase in the use of coal and other fossil fuels. Europe seems to be treating its maximum stated carbon allowance as a target rather than an absolute limit in this process.
Report by Cathal O Dubhain