Global CO2 and Coal:
We Won’t Do This Without Substantial Nuclear Power Capacity
Just a quick post of three graphs illustrating global CO2 emissions and electricity generated by coal. China, India and the U.S. remain the three countries of concern as they represent the two largest economies in the world (U.S. and China), the two largest populations in the world (China and India), the two countries undergoing the greatest increases in economic growth and energy consumption (China and India) and the country (the U.S.) with enough industrial and economic maturity to direct its attention and technological heft toward helping the rest of the world meet its energy and economic objectives while also meeting climate goals.
If we are to have any realistic hope of moderating CO2 emissions at the global scale while meeting our national security objectives, we need something along the lines of a 21st century nuclear power Marshall Plan where the U.S. nuclear industry is engaged throughout the world. We’ve done it before—we can do it again. We certainly need it.
Electricity Generated from Coal
- Global coal consumption for power generation increased 2.9% from 2016-2017;
- From 2016-2017, consumption of coal for power generation increased 4.7% in both China and India, continuing a 30-year trend for China and a 20-year trend for India as both countries continue economic growth;
- China’s once-anticipated plateauing of coal consumption, from 2013-2015, seems to have been premature;
- From 2016-2017, U.S. consumption of coal for power generation decreased 2.4%, continuing a decade-long decline as the U.S. electric power sector continues shifting from coal to natural gas.
- Global CO2 emissions increased 1.3% from 2016-2017;
- The plateauing/peaking anticipated back in 2014 was not sustained;
- China, which had appeared to be plateauing in CO2 emissions, saw a 1.3% increase from 2016-2017;
- From 2016-2017, India’s CO2 emissions increased 4.1%, continuing its decades-long trend;
- The U.S. continued its decade-long decline in CO2 emissions with a 0.8% decrease from 2016-2017.
CO2 Emissions Over the Two Previous 15-year Periods
- During the most recent 15-year period, China accounted for 60.3% of the global net increase in CO2 emissions, whereas India accounted for 14.8% of the net increase;
- During this same period, the U.S. was primarily responsible for keeping emissions from increasing even further;
- The two 15-year periods indicate that China, India and the rest of the world are trending upward in CO2 emissions whereas the U.S. is trending down.
None of this is surprising. Much of the world’s economic growth historically has been based on coal-fired power generation. It worked for the U.K., it worked for the U.S., it has been working for China and it is now working for India and other emerging economies. Baseload power generation from a proven technology is preferable to unproven renewable technologies that haven’t been proven at the global scale of trillions of dollars in economic activity and billions of people needing more and more electricity.
Nuclear power is a proven, safe and reliable technology that must be deployed at the global scale for us to have any hope of moderating these trends in coal-fired power generation and CO2 emissions.
The world needs the U.S. to ramp up its nuclear power industry and engage in this global effort. There’s more at stake than we can calculate.