Many people are aware of the problems ahead, leading efforts to make a difference in emissions due to burning coal.
By Dr. John J. Hidore
December 18, 2015—Coal is the dirtiest and least expensive of the fossil fuels. Burning coal emits soot, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As a result, coal causes more illness and fatalities than other fossil fuels. The consumption of coal increased 54% in the years from 2000 to 2011. In this 10 year period, China’s coal consumption went up by about 1½ times, oil consumption doubled, and natural gas by 3 times the previous amount. China now burns almost half of all coal consumed each year. In the same time period, India’s coal consumption has more than doubled, oil consumption increase by half and natural gas by 131%. In the summer of 2012, a coal dependent power grid collapsed producing a blackout that affected 640 million people.
Leading Efforts to Make a Difference
It is clear that world consumption of coal as an energy source is increasing in many nations. However, many people are aware of the problems ahead, leading efforts to make a difference in greenhouse gas emissions. One such effort was led by the mayor of London, England. In 2005, the mayor invited representatives of 18 of the world’s largest cities to meet and discuss the need for large cities to take action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Soon after, with the help of the Clinton Climate Initiative, the group grew to 40. The merger of two groups in 2012 led to the formation of what was designated as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.
C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
There are three levels of membership in this group. The original and core section is that of megacities. Megacities are defined as cities with currently more than three million people or metropolitan areas of over 10 million, either currently or projected by 2025. Cities are also admitted to this class if they are among the top 25 cities in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). The number of megacity members has now grown to more than 60.
There are two other categories of members which allow smaller cities to participate in the program. To date nearly 5000 measurable actions have been initiated that will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide. Already existing actions taken by these cities are expected to reduce emissions by 248 million tons by 2020 and by one billion tons by 2030.
The City of Los Angeles: Coal Free by by 2025
The city of Los Angeles is one of the megacity members of the C40 group. As part of their action plan, the city has pledged to become coal free of energy sources by 2025. The mayor and Board of Water and Power Commissioners of Los Angeles have announced a plan to be coal free. The city currently gets 39% of its electrical energy from coal driven power plants, located in Utah and Arizona. The city will end its contract with Arizona in 2015, and will convert the Utah plant to natural gas by 2025. Between 2005 and 2013, Los Angeles increased the amount of energy used from renewable sources from three to twenty percent.
Other Notable Events Related to Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions
1. A Nevada coal fired plant was shut down due to activist pressure. In May of 2014, NV Energy announced plans to close its four coal fired power units of the Reid-Gardner Generating Station near Moapa, Nevada. The plant has been a point of contention in Nevada for many years. The Moapa Indians attribute a variety of health problems to this plant. The problems include asthma, heart disease, and lung disease due to coal dust.
2. President Obama, along with the EPA, has placed future limits on coal burning plants.
3. Eleven cities have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies.
4. In 2014, Ontario, Canada announced that it will become the first North American industrial region to eliminate coal power.
5. The World Bank has declared it will sharply restrict funding for new coal-fired power plants in developing countries.
6. The US Import-Export Bank has declined to fund a huge new coal plant in Vietnam on environmental grounds.
7. A bureau of land management lease sale for 149 million tons of coal in the Powder River Valley has failed to attract a single bid.