General Electric, one of the world’s largest suppliers of electrical power plant equipment, is all fired up about large markets for new coal-fired generation in India and China as America’s shut down.
This may seem quite a turnaround for a company which has been characterized by the National Center for Public Policy Research as “the poster boy for crony capitalism and corporate America’s green energy cheerleader.”
After all, GE had previously assured investors that coal was on its way out. Its “ecomagination” campaign launched in 2005 focused the company’s future on an “Age of Gas” powered by their heavy-duty turbines along with cleaner, higher efficiency jet engines.
Whereas GE’s chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt once famously said, “increasingly, ‘green’ is green,” it appears that faced with a sluggish global economy, greener business pastures can be cultivated in decidedly browner foreign markets.
As reported in The Wall Street Journal, GE nearly doubled its fleet of world-wide turbines last year to more than 1,500 through its acquisition of Alstom SA. Andreas Lusch, the chief executive of GE’s steam power systems business who was formerly with Alstom,said, “We expect a quite stable, if not increasing, amount of installations in coal.”
Power accounted for 20% of GE’s total 2015 revenue sales. Scott Davis, an analyst at Barclays, said that keeping Alstom’s coal turbine factories active is vital to achieving GE’s roughly $3 billion in projected cost savings. And whereas the coal market doesn’t need to grow much to accomplish this, “The reality is, gas hasn’t grown much either.”
Referring to India and other foreign markets, Lusch said, “They are as hungry for energy as we were probably 40 or 50 years ago, and they do not have this mindset to say we want everything to be renewable . . . First they want power.”
China is building a new coal-fired plant about every week. These cleaner technology facilities added 39 gigawatts of coal-fired plants in 2014 alone, the equivalent of three 1,000-megawatt plants per month. To fuel this expansion, China approved construction of more than 100 million metric tons of new coal production capacity from five large-scale mines in 2013, up six times from the previous year.
Faced with terrible and readily avoidable real air pollution (not the plant-fertilizing CO2 “pollution” attributed to influencing climate change), China is shuttering four older plants that are big emitters of the serious smog-causing stuff. Those truly dirty units are being replaced with four gas-fired stations that have 2.6 times more generating capacity.
China also plans to build 50 coal-to-gas conversion electricity generating plants far from cities. A major drawback is that the process consumes large amounts of water. The government currently operates two demonstration status coal-to-gas demonstration projects.
Japan presently has 43 clean-coal-fired plants under construction to replace the nuclear units that were shuttered following the Fukushima accident caused by the 2011 tsunami earthquake that killed 19,000 people.
Nuclear energy, which previously provided 14% of Japan’s electricity, now produces only 2%. As a result, Japan has become the world’s third largest oil consumer and net importer of crude oil behind the U.S. and China.
President Obama has made good on his pledge that, “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant,” policies of his regime “will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all the greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
The EPA’s mandated 30% reduction in CO2 emissions over 2005 levels by 2030 on top of recent new Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) regulations are projected to take one-third of the nation’s coal-fired generation off the American power grid.
Meanwhile, American Electric Power reported that 90% of its coal plants slated for retirement under already pending EPA rules were required to meet peak demands during the winter of 2014. This, despite the fact that the real pollutants . . . sulfur, lead, carbon monoxide, and smog-causing emissions from coal plants, are already down by 50% to 90% over the past 40 years.
Nevertheless, according to The Wall Street Journal, GE leaders believe they can continue reap decades of lucrative revenues here at home from remaining coal plants by installing mandated upgrades.
GE profit margins for costly replacements will be even higher. Very high natural gas operating temperatures reduce turbine life cycles and increase maintenance service requirements with costs passed on to the rest of us.
Those burdens will be even higher for families and communities of those who depend upon coal industry employment.
NOTE: A version of this article appears at: http://www.newsmax.com/LarryBell/green-greener-coal/2016/09/06/id/746829/.