by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If you buy into the notion that man is causing irreparable harm to the planet through global warming (or, since there’s been no warming recently, climate change), that still doesn’t mean the United States should adopt an economy-crushing policy to limit the emissions that lead to warming.
Why? Because people in other countries — even those whose leaders profess to care about warming — will not follow suit. Bloomberg Businessweek offers the latest evidence.
Horní Ji?etín and other small villages along Europe’s mining belt may soon succumb to the continent’s quest for cheaper electricity. Alarmed that energy prices in Europe are about double what they are in the U.S., governments in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Germany are green-lighting the expansion of mines that produce lignite, a moist, brown coal used to fuel power plants. While lignite is plentiful and cheap, it packs less energy and releases more greenhouse gases than hard coal. The dirty coal’s resurgence runs counter to European Union efforts to limit emissions and promote cleaner energy.
“It’s absurd,” says Petra Roesch, mayor of Proschim, a 700-year-old German village that could be entirely leveled if authorities in the state of Brandenburg allow the expansion of a lignite mine owned by the Vattenfall power utility. “Germany wants to transition toward renewable energy, and we’re being deprived of our land.”
Worldwide demand for lignite is poised to rise as much as 5.4 percent by 2020, according to the International Energy Agency. Use of the fuel fell 40 percent from 1990 to 2010 as governments across the former Soviet bloc closed aging industrial plants. Poland, which gets almost 90 percent of its electricity from brown coal, is stepping up its use partly to bolster employment in some of the nation’s poorest areas, where lignite is mined. Electricity produced from lignite rose 3.7 percent last year, while output from hard coal plants fell 7 percent, according to PGE, a state-owned Polish utility. CEZ, a Czech power company that also owns mines, said in November it expected to increase output of lignite by 6 percent in 2013, to 24.1 million tons.