Europe had made coal taboo. Now burning it is once again more important than the climate crisis

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heads and tails Like a coin, coal consumption has its positive side, or practical, at least, and another negative. The first is that it offers a quick and direct alternative to gas from Russia. The second, that it is tremendously polluting. So much so that for a long time the EU countries assumed that they must cut their consumption if they want to even touch their emission reduction targets for 2050. In a scenario marked by rising prices and the war in Ukraine and in which Europe tries to stop its dependence on Russian gas, when launching the currency many countries are finding that, unlike a year ago, it is beginning to come out “heads”.

At the very least, the new framework threatens the EU’s planning to leave the bastard behind.

Days ago, in the second week since the start of the Ukraine war, Fraunhofer ISE calculated that plants on the continent were burning around 51% more sedimentary rock than a year earlier. In parallel, there was a drop in gas demand.

The most direct exit

The increase in the use of coal after registering a 40% drop between 2010 and 2020 It is not something strictly new. At the end of 2021, coinciding with the rebound in energy demand and the rise in gas prices, European coal generation already increased by about 18%. In view of the scenario that was being drawn, in February, even before Moscow began the invasion of Ukraine, some experts advanced since the production of thermal power plants could increase throughout this year to match the levels of 2018. The war and its multiple derivatives, however, have led the coal debate to the fore.

Brussels has already set the goal of reduce by two thirds dependence on Russian gas before the end of the year and liquidating imports by 2030. It will not be an easy task. So so 40% of the 500,000 million cubic meters of gas that Europe consumes each year comes from the country of Vladimir Putin. How to achieve it then and guarantee long-term supply? There are several options on the table, such as approach other gas exporters —USA, Norway, Algeria, Qatar or Egypt, for example— stepping on the accelerator of renewables or the nuclear controversy… And burning coal, an easy and direct alternative to satisfy energy demand.

Recently, the Vice President of the European Commission and head of the Green Deal, Frans Timmermanns, recognized the BBC that, given the circumstances, “there are no taboos” in burning coal as an alternative to Russian gas. What’s more, the community leader showed his confidence that even a punctual increase in coal would not be incompatible with the EU’s climate objectives.

Europe is severing its energy ties with Russia.  His problem is that there are not many alternatives

“Things have changed. History took a very sharp turn a week ago and we have to accept that historic change. Poland and other countries had plans to go off coal and use natural gas and then switch to renewable energy. If they stay longer with coal, but then immediately move to renewables, they could still be within the parameters that we set for our climate policy,” detailed Timmermans.

He has not been the only leader of the continent who has pointed in that direction. A week ago Vaclav BartuskaEnergy Safety Commissioner of the Czech Government, coincided during an interview with Seznam Zprávy in the “change” caused by the invasion of Ukraine and pointed out that coal will play a “temporary” role. “We expected it to be out of the mix by the end of this decade. But will stay longer. We will need it before finding alternative resources. Until then, no government greener than ours will put out the coal.” The republic had based on its decarbonization strategy largely on the gas.

The German Vice Chancellor and Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Robert Habeck, also recently hinted that it is possible that his country, with a heavy dependence on Russian gasmust review its ambitious decarbonization roadmap if Moscow cuts its contribution.

Jonny Caspari 1je5j4an2ri Unsplash

“In the short term, it may be that, as a precaution and to be prepared for the worst, we may have to keep coal-fired plants on standby and maybe even let them operate,” explained the high official, of the Green Party, to the public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk: “Pragmatism must triumph over all political compromises. safeguard the security of supplies“. The federal republic was among the first nations to announce the creation of strategic coal and gas reserves. For now, yes, the reopening of mines seems off the agenda.

In a similar vein, Romania, which has also set itself the goal of phasing out coal in the next decade, has aimed to the reactivation of thermal power plants with the controversial fossil fuel. “We will have to restart coal power plants,” pointed out Barna Tánczos, its head of Environment. local media They already indicate the reopening of Mintia, a plant closed in 2021. Also in the United Kingdom would be exploring prolong the life of West Burton Central.

Burn coal, buy from Algeria, methane tankers: how Europe can reduce its dependence on Russia

Another good example is provided by Italy, which has gone from announcing its plans to abandon coal in the middle of this decade to recognizing that it may need to recover part of the sector. His prime minister, Mario Draghi, recently suggested that the country could reactivate coal-fired power plants “to cover any deficit in the immediate future”, statements that were later qualified by the Department of the Environment. the executive yes slide, in any casewhich “in the event of an absolute lack of energy” could use the power plants toast and Civitavecchia.

The mineral is not alien in any case to the scenario generated by the war. Russia is also a key source of thermal coal for Europe. Other countries with outstanding productions are Colombia, South Africa, Poland or the USA, where the sector has resurfaced due to the increase in demand at a national and international level. US industry is in fact interested in European markets and its employers, NMA, has already shown its availability for “play a crucial role” in meeting Europe’s energy needs.

Pictures | Albert Hyseni (Unsplash) and Dominik Vanyi (Unsplash)

heads and tails Like a coin, coal consumption has its positive side, or practical, at least, and another negative. The…

heads and tails Like a coin, coal consumption has its positive side, or practical, at least, and another negative. The…

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