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How Coal Lifts Hundreds Of Millions Out Of Poverty

November 5, 2014

By Paul Homewood



"Access to energy is absolutely fundamental in the struggle against poverty," said World Bank Vice President Rachel Kyte. "It is energy that lights the lamp that lets you do your homework, that keeps the heat on in a hospital, that lights the small businesses where most people work. Without energy, there is no economic growth, there is no dynamism, and there is no opportunity." 




The Manhattan Institute have published a new report “NOT BEYOND COAL  : How the Global Thirst for Low-Cost Electricity Continues Driving Coal Demand”.


Executive Summary


Since 1973, coal consumption has grown faster than any other form of energy. Growth in coal consumption has been critical in providing electricity access in developing countries.

Based on the results of three different estimates, this paper finds that between 1990 and 2010, about 830 million people—the vast majority in developing countries—gained access to electricity due to coal-fired generation. Indeed, roughly twice as many people gained access to electricity due to coal as due to natural gas; and for every person who obtained access to electricity over that period from non-hydro renewable sources, such as wind and solar, about 13 gained access due to coal.

Coal-fired-generation capacity continues to grow in wealthy countries, too. For electricity production, no other energy source can currently match the black fuel when it comes to cost, scale, and reliability. In all, more than 500 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity will likely be built worldwide by 2040. Given coal’s pivotal role in providing electricity to poor and wealthy countries alike, it is highly unlikely that global carbon-dioxide emissions will fall anytime soon.




There is a lot of useful detail, but this graph really tells the story.




It is incredibly naive for people to suggest that renewables such as wind and solar can ever make any meaningful contribution to global energy demand, never mind supplant fossil fuels.


Read the rest here.


Let me leave you with one more table and another quote.





“The importance of coal in the global energy mix is now the highest since 1971. It remains the backbone of electricity generation and has been the fuel underpinning the rapid industrialization of emerging economies, helping to raise living standards and lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”[41]
—FATIH BIROL, chief economist, IEA

  1. Bloke down the pub permalink
    November 5, 2014 1:58 pm

    Last week on Channel 4, there was an episode of ‘ Unreported World’ , presented by Krishnan Guru-Murthy , called ‘India’s Electric Dream. On the whole, it was a well balanced programme showing India’s attempts to provide electricity for it’s people, and the problems with their poorly regulated open cast mining for coal. Local Greenpeace activists got coverage but so too did people reaping the benefits of being connected to the grid. Worth the effort of finding it on catch-up tv.

  2. November 5, 2014 6:34 pm

    Nigeria is about to start mining its 2.8bt of reserves for power use

  3. November 6, 2014 12:26 am

    Thanks, Paul.
    Burning coal is much better than burning trees, no matter from which side of the global warming controversy you look at it. Without cheap coal or gas people have to burn trees.

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