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Environmentally Correct Europe Turns to Coal

Stanley Reed — New York Times — November 5, 2012

LONDON — You may think that coal is fading away as a fuel, but it isn’t. It’s booming. As I write in my latest Green Column, last year coal as a proportion of world energy was at its highest since the 1960s. A lot of the growth in coal use is happening in Asia, particularly China. But coal — the largest CO2 emitter among fossil fuels — is also in demand in Europe, including in ultra-green Germany.

One reason: The U.S. shale gas boom has encouraged American power plants to switch from coal to gas, cutting energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S. to their lowest in 20 years. American coal producers are shipping their coal to Europe, bringing down prices on the Continent.

Much of Europe hates the idea of shale gas, preferring to rely on much more expensive imports from Russia and elsewhere. With no low-cost domestic gas supplies, coal is much cheaper than gas in Europe for utilities. In fact, they lose money burning gas.

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