Coal, Creating International locations and the Streisand Impact • Do you agree?

A tweet thread by @DoombergT

1/ The California Coastal Records Project was formed in 2002 to create and maintain a complete photographic record of the Golden State’s spectacular coastline. Its main objectives were to track the degradation of coastal resources and uncover developer violations.

2/ Led by a married couple – Kenneth Adelman, photographer, and Gabrielle Adelman, helicopter pilot – more than 12,000 photos taken at 500 foot increments.

3/ The project demonstrated the benefits of using rapidly evolving Internet technology to protect priceless natural beauty and the couple received the Sierra Club’s 2004 Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography for their work.

4/ But not everyone was enthusiastic. Photo #3,850 happened to show the sprawling estate of a world-renowned singer, actress, philanthropist, and environmental activist. Barbra Streisand’s Malibu mansion was stunning in its opulence:

5/ While we would be the last to criticize how anyone spends their money, for a person who had spent years evangelizing the need for other people to reduce their carbon emissions, there was actually a certain televangelist involved a … private jet feeling.

6/ Although hardly anyone saw the image or even knew about it – it was only downloaded six times in all, two of them by her lawyers – Streisand decided that it was unacceptable for this image to be circulating on the internet.

7/ She requested the Adelmans to remove it from their published collection. As a token of her determination that no one should see her home without her permission, Streisand sued the couple in 2003 for invasion of their privacy, seeking $50 million (!) in damages.

8/ The shocking hypocrisy of it all backfired spectacularly. The story went viral and tabloids around the world circulated pictures of the property for untold millions to see. This is how the “Streisand Effect” came into being, defined as efforts at suppression that are only intended to amplify.

9/ We were reminded of this rather humorous matter when examining what impact the recent global energy crisis is likely to have on long-term demand for coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels.

10/ In the name of reducing CO2 emissions, governments across the western hemisphere worked to thwart the production of most forms of primary energy, ultimately culminating in the severe energy crisis that began in Europe in 2021.

11/ In the years leading up to the disaster, much of western Europe effectively halted domestic exploration and production of natural gas while preemptively shutting down well-functioning nuclear power plants.

12/ In an ironic twist reminiscent of Streisand’s self-destructive parade of Photo #3,850, these actions will likely result in the rest of the world burning massively more coal than if Europe simply refrained enough.

13/ We start with Germany. Faced with the prospect of going into the winter of 2022-2023 with insufficient energy supplies, the country scoured the world in search of every BTU it could get its hands on, regardless of price, carbon footprint or impact on developing countries.

14/ In particular, Germany retreated to the coal mines from Dunkirk with the speed and efficiency of the British evacuation. According to the IEA, the “significant turnaround” in Germany has caused European coal consumption for electricity to increase by 9% to a total of 377 tons in 2022.

15/ The country’s return to coal, coupled with a historically mild winter, may have given it some respite from the disaster, but the inevitable consequences of both the mistakes that caused the energy crisis and the chosen solution to it are being felt in the developing world linger.

16/ Given their huge populations, relatively low levels of economic development, and a general desire for higher living standards, developing countries will ultimately decide whether the world can control its carbon emissions. The decision is there.

17/ Among the countries hardest hit by the energy crisis was Pakistan. The country of almost a quarter billion literally sat in the dark as Europe struggled to secure every LNG tanker it could get its hands on. Power outages and political unrest quickly ensued.

18/ In response, the country plans to quadruple its domestic coal-fired power plant capacity and increase the share of coal in the electricity mix from the current 2.3 GW to 10 GW in the medium term.

19/ The situation is similar in Indonesia, a country blessed with an abundance of domestic coal and many of the critical metals needed to manufacture electric vehicles. While it happily provides the world with the latter, it will also burn large quantities of the former.

20/ The country recently broke ground on an industrial park that stretches over 40,000 hectares. The site is becoming a hub for green manufacturing utilizing the country’s vast mineral reserves. How is this green energy utopia being driven forward? With charcoal, of course.

21/ Aside from the more than 500 million people who live in Pakistan and Indonesia combined, other major developing countries are pursuing similar strategies, including the two most populous. Both China and India have announced big plans to increase the use of coal.

22/ Ignoring the path function of progress (and abandoning nuclear technology) led to the dramatic global renaissance of coal. All in all, the world set a record for coal consumption in 2022 and is expected to do the same this year.

23/ Faced with the choice between a guaranteed catastrophe today or an increased risk of catastrophe in the distant future, developing countries have observed what Germany was doing instead of listening to what it said and are now acting accordingly.

24/ Finally, we found that there are about two orders of magnitude more people in the bottom 99% than in the top 1%, and these vast populations will pursue the just and inherently human endeavor to improve their quality of life.

25/ If we don’t understand why coal is valuable, we have no hope of overcoming our addiction to it. Coal is cheap, reliable and can easily be stored indefinitely. Substitute products that fail on this scale have no hope of reducing global demand for them.

@DoombergT is an excellent Twitter follower and his substack is worth checking out.

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