Adani on life support

I have a piece in The Guardian under the headline Adani’s rail line cut shows project is on life support but still a threat to climate, starting with the observation

The recent announcement by Adani that it will halve the costs of its rail line to the proposed Carmichael coalmine by building a shorter, narrow-gauge line raises an obvious question: if such a massive cost-saving is feasible, why didn’t Adani go that way in the first place?

I also address the broader question

If coal is doomed, why has the price recoverd

9 thoughts on “Adani on life support

  1. Why has coal demand ticked up in China? Hypotheses:
    1. Xi was focussed on getting his lifetime rule through the Party Congress, and took his eye off the provincial party satraps, may of whom are still wedded to old-style material growth rather than Xi’s “beautiful China”. (He’s not thinking of romantic wilderness, rather of a manicured Summer Palace, with every bush pruned and labelled.) Now he has secured his position beyond dispute or challenge, the provinces will be brought to heel.
    2. A dead cat bounce from the cut in coal burning in urban factories to reduce air pollution. This shifted demand to electricity, which is growing historically fast. For the moment this means more coal burnt in power stations. Bur electricity demand will revert to slower growth from long-term structural changes, a demand which can be largely met from renewables.

    BTW, there is new research showing that fine particles reach the placenta in pregnant women. Whether or not the particles get through to the foetus, it’s not good news for the unborn. The horrors just keep piling up (*****

  2. This article lays out our problem.

    “Committed emissions from existing and planned power plants and asset stranding required to meet the Paris Agreement” – Alexander Pfeiffer, Cameron Hepburn, Adrien Vogt-Schilb and Ben Caldecott

    A key point from the abstract:

    “We find that even though the growth of emission commitments has slowed down in recent years, currently operating generators still commit us to emissions (~300 GtCO2) above the levels compatible with the average 1.5 °C–2 °C scenario (~240 GtCO2). Furthermore, the current pipeline of power plants would add almost the same amount of additional commitments (~270 GtCO2). Even if the entire pipeline was cancelled, therefore, ~20% of global capacity would need to be stranded to meet the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement.”

    In everyday-speak, we need to cancel all planned coal power plants now and close another 20% of global capacity now or very soon. The remainder could run until retirement, apparently. At least, that’s the way I read it. However, I rarely see any serious discussion of retiring all oil and gas usage as well. It’s not just coal that we have to give up.

  3. In South Australia 50% of electricity demand met by solar for a time yesterday. If our leaders refuse to act — or worse, work to keep coal generation alive — we will simply have to drive coal generation out of the market. Of course the political failure to protect lives costs lives, both here and overseas.

  4. Iko: That account of coal looks pretty sound. But given the speed of the coal implosion, we can safely treat most of the planned pipeline as vapourware. What matters is the much smaller pipeline under construction. Large-scale early retirements of existing coal plants are quite likely on purely economic grounds: in many places, including the USA and India, their operating costs are now higher than new renewables.

    We are unlikely to see big retirements of gas capacity anywhere. But it doesn’t matter. As intermittent renewables grow, gas will become confined to a backup role with low capacity factors and a shrinking total burn. Gas peaker plants in the US run at CFs of under 10%.

  5. Indeed.

    Why did they need to bludge a $ billion of the taxpayer, to be sent to some offshore bank, when they were quite capable of building a railway for half the price they cited.

  6. @Paul Walter Because they wanted a free (paid for by taxpayers) asset that they could then rent out to Gina and others. Speaking of free assets, and stranded ones, is that airport going ahead, or did the councils just sack staff for nothing at all?

  7. James Wimberley,

    I hope you (and J.Q.) are right about the coal issue. I mean about coal mining and coal use imploding rapidly from this point onward. I don’t foresee see any coal use growth. Indeed, I see coal use dwindling. What I can’t see yet, being the pessimistic sceptic that I am, is coal use imploding rapidly. The next decade will tell the tale.

    Climate Analytics writes;

    “Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel and phasing it out is a key step to achieve the emissions reductions needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement. Most emissions from coal are in the electricity sector and, as we already have the technologies that can replace coal, phase out is a relatively cheap and easy option to reduce emissions. Our research shows that the EU and OECD countries must stop burning coal for electricity by 2030, China by 2040 and the rest of the world by mid-century in order to meet commitments made in Paris in the most cost effective manner.”

    Based on that, I would posit that no (thermal?) coal use in EU and OECD by 2030 is the first benchmark we need to see met. To reiterate, I hope you (and J.Q.) are right. I will know you are right if we meet the 2030 Climate Analytics benchmark for thermal coal at least.

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