Coal Industry: Down but Not Out

It's easy to focus on the shrinking market share and layoffs in the coal industry and see the demise of the industry, but construction of new coal burning power plants is still booming in countries like China and India.

1 minute read

April 5, 2016, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Brad Plumer shares the latest findings on the size and strength of the coal industry, as reported in the 2016 "Boom and Bust" report prepared by CoalSwarm, the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace. The report provides a yearly review of "all the new coal plants that have been announced, permitted, or are currently being built around the world."

The 2016 report finds 1,500 coal plants at various stages of development around the world. Here's how Plumer sums up the impact of that figure:

That's a staggering number. If even a fraction of these plants get built and operate for their full lifetime, we'll likely bust through the 2°C global warming threshold that world leaders have promised to stay below. Even 3°C could be tough to avoid.

Plumer notes an important caveat: China, like the United States, might be losing its appetite for coal-powered electricity. China is home to half the world's planned coal capacity, so a sea change there would be a major loss for the coal industry. Plumer has already noted in a previous, separate article that much of China's planned coal power capacity might be superfluous. Plumer also delves into India's electricity market. "Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for a near doubling of coal production by 2020," according to Plumer, but even that target is in doubt.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 in Vox

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