Coal to Kyoto: We will bury you

You have probably heard that China is building new coal-fired power plants at the rate of one every week to 10 days. In late 2004, The Christian Science Monitor reported that three countries—the United States, China, and India—are planning to build nearly 850 new coal plants, “which would pump up to five times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce.” These new plants will “bury” Kyoto. The Monitor elaborated:

By 2012, the plants in three key countries – China, India, and the United States – are expected to emit as much as an extra 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to a Monitor analysis of power-plant construction data. In contrast, Kyoto countries by that year are supposed to have cut their CO2 emissions by some 483 million tons.

These numbers don’t tell the whole story, because coal is surging all around the world, not just in the Big Three countries:

With natural gas prices expected to continue rising, 58 other nations have 340 new coal-fired plants in various stages of development. They are expected to go online in a decade or so. Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey are all planning significant new coal-fired power additions. Germany also plans to build eight coal plants with 6,000 megawatts capacity.

A more recent article reports that Germany—yes, oh-so-green, bullish-on-Kyoto Germany—is planning to build 26 new coal-fired power plants.

And now comes a report that demand for thermal coal in Russia is expected to triple by 2020, with coal-based generation doubling its share of Russian power production from about 20 percent to 38-40 percent.

The upshot of all this should be, but isn’t, obvious to folks on Capitol Hill. Kyoto-style regulation is at best a costly exercise in futility.