Let’s Talk about Coal

An interesting site by Straterra about coal.

The burning of fossil fuels is driving . All of us – collectively, globally, including the industry – face the challenge of reducing CO2 emissions to stabilise average surface temperatures, as agreed by 195 countries (including New Zealand) in Paris in late 2015.

That’s the problem definition. How to do this is the hard part.

Fossil fuels currently provide 78% of global primary energy. Fossil fuels, including coal, remain the fuel of choice for many developed countries, and for developing countries where priorities are clearly aimed at raising standards of living rather than environmental cost.

Straterra, the industry association representing New Zealand’s minerals and mining sector, has created Let’s Talk About Coal to contribute to an informed debate on how we respond to climate change by reducing the effects of fossil fuel use in New Zealand, and globally.

This is the problem. Coal use does have to decline over time, but you can’t just turn off 78% of the world’s primary energy overnight.

Over the past 30 years, at least 650 million people have been lifted out of energy poverty, mostly in China where most are now connected to a largely coal-generated grid.

In the words of World Bank Vice President Rachel Kyte: “Access to energy is absolutely fundamental in the struggle against poverty. It is energy that lights the lamp that lets you do your homework, that keeps the heat on in a hospital, that lights the small businesses where most people work. Without energy, there is no economic growth, there is no dynamism.”

The developed world can transition to renewables reasonably easily, as NZ has. But the developing world has a far tougher challenge.

Also of interest is how much coal is needed to make everyday products:

  • 1100 kgs of coal to make one tonne of steel
  • 1800 kgs of coal to make one tonne of tomatoes
  • 1.5 kgs of coal to make one leg of beer
  • 310 kgs of coal to make one tonne of salt
  • 160 kgs of coal to make one tonne of cement

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