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In The War On Coal, China Is The Victor

While our electricity prices necessarily skyrocket under the weight of the administration's regulatory assault in fossil fuels, the world's largest carbon emitter will spew even more, preferring economic growth over climate change hype.

President Obama's expansion of his war on coal to include existing coal plants may very well put the industry on the path to extinction, costing jobs and economic growth while raising energy prices, a huge tax on the American consumer. But countries like China and India are increasing their coal consumption, more than outpacing any U.S. reductions in coal use and carbon emissions.

His actions come as news outlets ponder why global temperatures have flat lined for the last 16 years or so — and despite the fact that the U.S. has led the world in carbon reductions for the last two decades. The increased use of natural gas thanks to a boom in fracking has helped fuel these reductions. That proves once again that technology fuels both growth and clean air.

Energy analysts say the administration's energy policies could push about one-third of the U.S. coal-fired fleet into retirement. In the first quarter of 2013, there were 900 active coal mines, down 17% from a year earlier. Last year, U.S. utilities burned 825 million tons of coal, down from 1.045 billion tons in 2007.

If Not Us ...

This would seem to be the fulfillment of Obama's goal of saving the earth by going green. Yet exports of American coal have increases as domestic production declined. Coal companies exported 126 million tons last year, up from 59 million tons in 2007, much of that to China and India. If we do not burn it here, they will burn it for us.

China's coal consumption soared to 4.33 billion tons last year, up from 2.97 billion tons in 2007. While the president hopes China and India will follow our example, such countries argue the West has had a long head start and they are not about to suspend their economic growth as they catch up.

China Doesn't Cap Growth

While pledging to reduce the share of fossil fuels in their energy mix, the Chinese are not about to stunt their growth. Su Wei, China's chief climate negotiator, says Western countries' emissions peaked when their per capita GDP was between $40,000 and $50,000. He noted the figure for China stands at $3,000. He has said China's emissions would likely increase until its per capita GDP had reached about half of the industrialized world's mark, which would mean a fivefold increase.

While U.S. emissions have fallen since 2005, China's are still increasing right along with the output of its factories. The Rhodium Group estimates that they were up by roughly 3.4% last year. China accounted for more than a quarter of worldwide emissions in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The United States was responsible for just under 17%.

Global demand for coal is expected to grow to 8.9 billion tons by 2016 from 7.9 billion tons this year. As of last November, there were at least 1,199 coal plants on the drawing board, according to a new report from the World Resources Institute. China is expected to add about 160 coal-fired plants within four years to the 620 operating now. During that period, India will add more than 46 plants.

In the Chinese view, the journey to economic growth begins with a single lump of coal. Obama's path won't save the planet but will cost jobs and push up energy bills at home.