Despite the myriad recent examples of positive news in the alternative energy world, it’s important to remember that harmful non-renewables aren’t losing any ground. According to the US Department of Energy, 258 gigawatts of new generating capacity are needed to meet an expected 40% increase in consumption by 2030, and coal companies are stepping up to meet this need.
In the US, 17.5 gigawatts of coal-fueled generating capacity are under construction, and 7.3 more gigawatts are on the way.
Coal companies are recording huge profits as a result of the growing desire for their services. Arch Coal, one of the largest coal producers in the United States, has recorded a net income of $194.1 million in the first half of 2008—triple their income from the first half of 2007.
Curbing this trend will be difficult, if not impossible, as emerging markets such as China show no signs of slowing down. Arch Coal suggests that 1.1 billion tons of coal will be needed by 2012, essentially replicating the US coal industry in 5 years.
So what can be done to stop coal’s harmful effects on the atmosphere? One possibility is carbon capture, but mandatory heat-trapping emission caps are not yet in place in the United States—not to mention other large coal-consuming countries. Unless major policy changes are made immediately, we’ll be dealing with massive coal emissions for a long time.
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Ariel Schwartz was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a contributor at Fast Company, Inhabitat, Triple Pundit, SF Weekly, and NBC Bay Area Online. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.