Environmentalists Call For Continued Reduction In Coal Burning

Environmental and economic trends have made the phaseout of coal both necessary and feasible, says the Worldwatch Institute, in an article in the Sept./Oct. issue of World Watch magazine. Because of its contribution to climate change and pollution, coal should be replaced with cleaner fuels, says the Washington-based organization. According to Seth Dunn, author of the article, coal's share of world energy, which peaked at 62% in 1910, is down to 23%. However, Dunn says the environmental and health costs of coal have never been higher. Coal is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, releasing 29% more carbon per unit than oil, and 80% more than natural gas. It accounts for 43% of annual global carbon emissions -- about 2.7 billion tons. Dunn says one solution to the coal problem is to reduce the large subsidies that encourage its use in some countries. The boldest initiatives to cut back coal have been in China, where coal subsidy rates have been halved since 1984. These cuts have resulted in a 5.2% drop in Chinese coal consumption in 1998. Belgium, France, Japan, Spain, and the UK have collectively halved coal use since slashing or ending coal supports over the last 15 years.

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