Coal is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, but it is also the most popular energy source for the world’s most advanced countries.
Coal-fired generation is the single biggest source of global greenhouse gas emissions.
So why does the world want more coal-powered power plants?
The answer to that question, according to an extensive review of coal and climate change policy by Vox and others, is that coal-burning power plants are an environmentally superior alternative to fossil fuels and that coal is the cheapest and cleanest option available.
The review found that coal produces roughly three-quarters of the worlds total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and that most coal-based power plants would likely meet or exceed the U.S. target of cutting greenhouse gas intensity from 2005 levels by 2050.
The coal-heavy energy sources include gas-fired and nuclear power plants.
The authors of the review also argued that coal’s carbon intensity was lower than many of the alternatives that have been put forward by some environmentalists.
But the study’s conclusion was less nuanced.
While coal-generated power plants generate more carbon dioxide (CO2) than many renewable energy sources, coal also generates less CO2 than wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass, nuclear, biofuels, and other forms of electricity generation, the authors wrote.
“Despite the fact that most CO2 emitted from coal-fuelled electricity generation is directly emitted by coal-consuming power plants, the environmental costs of coal power are significantly lower than renewables and biofuel-based energy sources,” they wrote.
“Coal-fired electricity plants also are significantly more costly to operate than renewable electricity generation.”
In short, coal is more carbon-dense than other energy sources.
The study did not identify the specific coal-related GHG emissions associated with coal, but the most comprehensive analysis to date found that the CO2 emissions from coal are among the highest in the world.
The CO2 emission from all other forms (including other fuels such as petroleum and natural gas) is higher than the highest for other fossil fuels.
The U.K. and Germany are the only countries that have achieved the goal of reducing CO2 intensity from fossil fuels by 20 percent from 2005 to 2050.
Coal emissions were highest in India, the world, and the United States, while coal-fueled power plants were most likely to emit the highest CO2.
The most efficient coal-derived power plants produce more electricity than all other renewable energy resources combined, including wind, hydropower, solar and biomass.
The energy produced from the U,S.
is also more than twice as efficient as that from wind, hydro, solar.
In fact, the U.,S.
produced more electricity per megawatt hour of electricity produced than any other country.