Asia Doubles Down on Coal

While the EPA is issuing regulations that will result in fewer coal-fired power plants in the United States, Asian countries are ramping up their use of coal.

Most people are aware that China and India are building large numbers of new coal-fired power plants, many of them Ultra-supercritical plants that are far more efficient than plants built in the United States. Ultra-supercritical plants have a thermal efficiency of 45%, compared with most plants in the United Sates that have a thermal efficiency of 33% HHV.

Approximately 75% of all proposed new coal-fired power plants in the developing world are to be built in China and India, which is consistent with the size of their populations when compared with other countries:

  • China: 1,360 million
  • India: 1,240 million

For reference, U.S. population is approximately 318 million.

But what most people are not aware of is that other Asian countries are also building new coal-fired power plants. The population of some of these countries is large, and when taken together are significant.

  • Indonesia: 250 million
  • Pakistan: 185 million
  • Bangladesh: 150 million
  • Philippines: 100 million
  • Vietnam: 90 million
  • Thailand: 64 million
  • Burma: 51 million
  • Cambodia: 15 million

What these countries have in common with China and India is the need for economic growth, as each have GDP per capita comparable with that of India ($1,516) or lower than that of China ($6,070). For comparison purposes, U.S. per capita GDP is $51,163 and the EU’s is $32,507. Note: GDP data is from United Nations.

Indonesia is perhaps the most interesting of these other Asian countries.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, but also has a large Hindu population centered in Bali. The government has pursued policies that encourage the peaceful inclusion of the Hindus on Bali, and except for the 2002 bombing in Bali by terrorists, the policies have been successful. The government pursued and killed those who were behind the bombing.

Bali, Indonesia Photo by D. Dears
Bali, Indonesia Photo by D. Dears

Indonesia plans for an additional 100,000 MW of new power generation capacity by 2035, while increasing its share of coal from 44% in 2011 to near 60% in 2035.

Indonesia also has significant reserves of natural gas, but plans not to use natural gas for power generation, preferring instead to export it as LNG, thereby improving its balance of payments.

Other countries in this grouping plan similar increases in coal-fired generation:
Thailand to add 55,000 MW by 2035, 35% of which will be coal.
Philippines to add 41,000 MW, mostly coal, which increases coal’s share to over 55% by 2035.

Vietnam to add 30,000 MW of coal-fired power plants by 2035.

For comparison, a typical nuclear power plant is rated 1,000 MW.

Overall, the IEA estimates that by 2035, half of all power generation for the ASEAN-10 will be coal-fired, compared with only one-third today. (The ASEAN-10 includes Singapore, Brunei, and Laos which are in addition to the earlier list, but does not include Pakistan or Bangladesh.)

The IEA estimates that the ASEAN-10 will increase its power generation capacity from 176,000 MW today, to 460,000 MW by 2035, of which 40% will be coal-fired. While the plans of individual countries may imply a greater increase than that projected by the IEA, the IEA has assumed some individual plans may not materialize.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues to push a wet noodle, forcing reductions in CO2 emissions by requiring the closure of coal-fired power plants in the United States.

The Obama administration and EPA’s stated goal is to cut total U.S. CO2 emissions 80% by 2050.

CO2 emissions with 80% cut
CO2 emissions with 80% cut

This requires cutting per capita emissions from around 16.6 tons today, to 2.3 tons in 2050, where 2.3 tons was the level of per capita U.S. CO2 emissions in 1900, over 100 years ago, when there were very few automobiles, no commercial airplanes, no tractors and fossil-fueled power equipment for growing the food we need, no TVs, few electric lights, or any other electric-powered equipment, such as refrigerators or air-conditioning.

It’s naive to think that the Asian nations will forego economic development, merely because President Obama, representing the richest nation on earth, says they should, so as to prevent increased CO2 emission.

The foolhardiness of this administration’s efforts to cut CO2 emissions is readily seen when the onrushing steamroller of new Asian coal-fired power generation is taken into consideration.

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