Coal power isn’t dead, it just moved to India, according to federal data published Monday.
In 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama promised to bankrupt coal power plants through regulations to fight global warming. He largely succeeded in the U.S., but the coal America would be burning is now being shipped to India, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The amount of coal India is buying from the U.S. has increased rapidly. India bought 5 percent of America’s coal in 2014, while in 2015, the country purchased an additional 2 million short tons — meaning 9 percent of American coal went to India, according to the EIA. The data specifies that, overall, the total amount of American coal exported is falling, with India being the only major country that’s buying more coal from the U.S.
“[O]ur dependence on coal will continue. There are no other alternatives available,” a top Indian coal ministry bureaucrat told Reuters in December. India says coal provides the cheapest energy for the kind of rapid industrialization that will lift millions out of poverty.
The Indian government is doubling coal production and imports by 2020, while building 87,122 megawatts of new coal power capacity. India is the world’s fastest growing, and third largest emitter of carbon dioxide. In 2014, India got 59 percent of its electricity from coal, and Indian leaders are ramping up the country’s coal production by opening a new mine every month.
All of this will occur even though India agreed to a United Nations deal on global warming, which is supposed to reduce CO2 emissions. India openly expressed disappointment in the text of the Paris agreement and continues building coal power infrastructure. India’s global warming minister states he was “not at all happy” with the agreement for reasons of “equity.”
India has stated it will only reduce coal use and the resulting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions if it receives substantial financial assistance from Western countries, equivalent to $2.5 trillion over the next 15 years in direct aid, grants and cheap financing.
Attempts to reduce CO2 emissions of developing economies like India have historically been very ineffective as they are inevitably costly and reduce economic growth.
It is estimated that 400 million Indians, 31 percent of the population, lack access to electricity, and the government considers turning the lights on for its population to be much more important than global warming.
“[I]n a country where a third of the population doesn’t have electricity, binding emissions limits are a fairy tale,”the director of the Liberty Institute, an Indian free-market think tank, told The Guardian last year.
aIndia and other developing countries are deeply dependent on cheap coal exported from the U.S. Thus, the are reluctant to cut CO2 emissions. Environmental groups like The Sierra Club openly worry India’s shift towards coal will hamper its attempts to fight global warming.
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