By David WeilPublished Mar 14, 2017 03:24:13For years, environmentalists have argued that coal is a dirty energy source and a major contributor to climate change.
Coal, though, has also been an important part of many countries’ energy mix.
For example, China accounts for roughly 10 percent of world coal consumption and its carbon emissions are the third-largest in the world.
The United States, with its coal industry, is the world’s third-biggest consumer of coal, with annual coal consumption of about 2.4 billion metric tons.
Yet, for decades, the U.S. government has ignored the role coal played in driving global warming and has relied instead on the argument that coal plants are good for the environment.
“The United States government has said it has not been impacted by the impact of coal plants,” says Jennifer Hsu, senior energy campaigner at Greenpeace USA.
“But it has ignored what coal plants actually are, what they are really doing to our climate, and what their impact is in the United States and around the world.”
In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 10 percent to 15 percent of U.N. carbon-reduction commitments are dependent on coal plants.
The U.K. is a pioneer in adopting policies that reduce carbon emissions from the coal sector, including the scrapping of coal-fired power plants in the 1990s and the establishment of national emissions targets for the sector in 2014.
But that has not made coal a green industry, nor has it impacted its environmental footprint.
The Trump administration, however, has made progress toward reducing carbon emissions.
Its first priority was to move away from the fossil fuel economy and toward clean, renewable energy.
President Trump recently signed an executive order directing the EPA to make major strides toward achieving its climate goals.
In April, the administration signed an order for the agency to begin the process of reducing carbon pollution from power plants.
But, as of now, coal remains the largest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for nearly 70 percent of global carbon emissions and 40 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas pollution.
In March, Trump ordered the EPA’s coal office to begin a review of all existing regulations, as well as new ones.
“We will ensure that the rulemaking process is focused on the most effective and efficient way to achieve our climate goals,” the president said at the time.
“As a result, we will have more time to complete the review of existing regulations.”
The coal industry is currently lobbying the administration to change its stance on coal, but the EPA has not taken a position on that.
The agency is considering whether to make a final determination on coal by the end of the year.
And the agency has said that it is still reviewing other regulations, including a rule from last year that would have prohibited coal-burning power plants from storing carbon dioxide in underground basins.
The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.
Hsu says that the Trump administration’s decision to take a more aggressive stance on CO2 is part of a broader shift toward renewable energy, which she calls a “new energy” that will “bring us closer to our goal of getting 50 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2040.”
The shift, she says, is a positive sign that America is making progress toward meeting its climate targets, but it is far from the complete picture.
“Coal is not a green energy source, but we’re moving in the right direction,” she says.