Australia, Russia, China and the United States have no plans to cut coal production


Massive machinery at work in the Wyodak surface coal mine in the coal-rich Powder River basin outside of Gillette, Wyoming in 2015. Source – Library of Congress, Carol M. Highsmith Archives. Public domain

Russia, along with coal-producing countries like China, Australia and the United States, refused to join an initiative at COP26 last week to phase out production of coal, the highly polluting fossil fuel. .

On November 4, the UN climate change issued a press release stating that “at least 23 countries have signed up to the commitments. Among them are five of the top 20 coal-fired electricity consuming countries.

Countries that have made new commitments to phase out coal-fired power include Indonesia, Vietnam, Poland, South Korea, Egypt, Spain, Nepal, Singapore, Chile, and Chile. Ukraine, among others.

In a new “Global Declaration on the Transition from Coal to Clean Energy,” countries also pledged to develop clean energy and ensure a just transition away from coal.

Night shift work at Carmichael Coal Mine, Queensland, Australia, September 15, 2020. Source – Cameron Laird, CC SA 4.0.

Australian coal production

Monday, according to France 24, Australia has said it plans to sell coal for “decades into the future” after rejecting the pact to phase out polluting fossil fuels to stop catastrophic climate change.

“We have made it very clear that we are not shutting down coal mines and we are not shutting down coal-fired power plants,” Australian Resources Minister Keith Pitt told national television station ABC.

Pitt also asserted that Australia has the highest quality coal in the world: “And that is why we will continue to have markets for decades to come. And if they buy … well, we sell.

Pitt also has an interesting reason why Australia continues to produce and sell its coal reserves, saying that if it didn’t sell it to the rest of the world someone else would.

Group of coal miners at work in the Baikaimskaya mine in Russia. Source – ассразрезуголь, CC SA 4.0.

Coal production in Russia

As for Russia, although it is interested in reducing emissions, it has no interest in reducing coal production, according to Radio-Canada Internationale.

The Russian Energy Ministry expects coal production in 2021 to increase by 6% from the previous year. And in 2022, further growth of 1.5% is expected, ministry representative Sergei Mochalnikov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

Russia has 400 billion tonnes of coal reserves, enough to sustain production for another 350 years. Russia now exports around 110 million tonnes, of which around 48 million tonnes are sold to European countries.

Russia currently has 58 operating coal mines, and several more are under construction, including in the Arctic.

A coal mine in Hailar, Inner Mongolia, China. Source – Herry Lawford from London, UK. CC SA 2.0.

Coal production in China

China is an interesting story. The communist country severed ties with Australia, which sent coal to China. Chinese imports of coal reached 26.9 million tonnes in October, up 96.2% from a year ago, customs data showed on Sunday. But these coal imports did not come from Australia.

China imported about 3.7 million tonnes of thermal coal, the main fuel for electricity production, coming from Russia in September, according to customs data. This is 28% more than in August and more than 230% more than a year ago.

Despite China’s increased needs for coal, reported imports of thermal coal from Australia have remained zero, as they have been since an unofficial ban took place in late 2020.

China imported 3 million tonnes of thermal coal from Indonesia in September, up 19% from August and 89% from September 2020, according to customs data.

The North Antelope Rochelle surface coal mine. – Photo: Peabody Energy. (Creative Commons 4.0)

Coal production in the United States

More than 40 percent of American coal comes from the Powder River basin in Montan. However, mine closures and job losses have taken a toll on the coal industry. Production reached a Lower for 50 years in 2020, and 151 coal mines have been inactive or closed.

Interestingly, even as the COP26 summit is in full swing this week, US coal production is actually up significantly this year.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects 22% growth in coal-fired power generation this year compared to 2020, in part due to stable coal prices and the high cost of natural gas.

The increase in coal production is unlikely to continue in the long term, according to the EIA, due to continued shutdowns of power plants and competition from other generation alternatives like natural gas.

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