Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why does Russia want more coal?

Coal is fossil fuel that is highly polluting our environment, and worldwide burning of the coal in coal power plants is one of the main reasons why we are currently engaged in fight against climate change. Despite the highly negative environmental impact many countries heavily rely on coal to fuel their economies since in most cases coal presents the cheapest energy option. China, the world's fastest economy has built its economic success on coal.

Though coal can bring economic success on one side it can also bring total environmental failure on the other side, and is really no surprise that many environmentalists have been worried about the latest Russia's plans to substantially increase energy production from coal as this will mean even more carbon emissions in the atmosphere, and with it the bigger climate change impact.

Why would Russia, the well known oil and natural gas giant also turn to coal to increase its energy production? There are several reasons for this. First of all Russia has enormous coal reserves, second only to United States, coal is as already said cheap energy option, and third increased coal use could help Russia to easier fulfill its gas export contracts.

Many energy experts do not see this move to be very wise, not only from environmental point of view but also from economic point of view since Russian coal is of poor quality because of high sulfur and moisture content. United Kingdom for instance displaced Russian coal with Australian and South African coal that both have significantly better quality than Russian coal.

But other energy experts will tell you that even if Russian coal is of poor quality, the Russia can still profit on shale gas (natural gas produced from shale). Shale gas technologies still need to be fully developed but they would enable countries that have enough coal, and not enough natural gas to produce shale gas at coal basins. Since Russia, as already said has abundance of coal of poor quality, extracting shale gas out of the coal basins would really be the case of getting the most out of it, especially as current estimates say that shale gas development should rise by more than 70% in the next 20 years.

Russia is filled with fossil fuel riches, and this is probably the main reason why Russia isn't doing much to use more renewable energy sources to supply its energy demand. The global clean energy race is on, and Russia still looks to be hesitating to join in. Fossil fuel riches are more than capable to provide Russia a relative energy comfort on global market at present times but Russia should also think about its energetic future, not to mention the fact that there will be huge economic benefits for winners in clean energy race.

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