You are here

Why coal now?

Aug 14,2018 - Last updated at Aug 14,2018

One wonders why Jordan, Egypt, UAE, Iran, Turkey and Oman have been promoting the use of coal as a cheap source of energy, although the world has been promising to reduce greenhouse gases for decades! Is it a local, regional or an international reason that influences decisions in the Middle East? Is it political, economic or cultural?

We can understand that the world depends on coal for almost 40 per cent of its electricity, and we also know that the US has the biggest reserves of coal in the world and that US President Donald Trump has promises to fulfill towards increasing investments in coal, and changing it into a cleaner industry through developing new carbon capture and storage techniques. To achieve this goal incentives were passed using tax vouchers of $50 for each metric tonne of carbon captured and stored that techniques are developing rapidly. Although this incentive is short of the actual cost of the whole operation, what is most promising is the development of that technique which extracts CO out of CO2 and dilutes it in water to produce hydrogen. If this succeeds, then a new perspective of energy strategies will prevail worldwide, using hydrogen as a source of energy with water as a green by-product into the environment.

Some countries in the Middle East might be influenced by US approach to increase the demand on coal, but others need to diversify their sources so that their economies can withstand fluctuations in political moods. An example is Turkey, which depends much on Russian gas and also on Russian nuclear technology, therefore, needs to build national sources, such as coal, especially after discovering new reserves of the fossil fuel.

The UAE is in a similar situation, although it has the world’s 8th largest gas reserve, it still imports gas from Qatar. Coal is strongly on the table and another thermal plant is on the way, alongside nuclear electricity plant based on South Korean technology.

Egypt, where coal was permitted for use in the cement industry since 2014, similar to the Jordanian case except for limiting coal share to 4 per cent in the final energy mix at least until 2025, is embarking on a 6,000MW coal plant on the Red Sea very soon, followed by another to reach a capacity of 9,800MW by 2025.

In general, it seems that energy strategies are influenced by economic, political and international factors, in addition to local, regional and even cultural dynamics governing when, and where, corruption and undemocratic governance prevails. In the meantime, the ethical human factor is still of importance, as twenty countries, as well as two US states, have already reached an ethical consortium over climate change, aspiring to become 50 states before the next climate summit this year in Poland. Some of these states are significant, such as France, UK, Italy, Portugal and Mexico. However, a serious change can only be possible if the Earth's number one polluter and that is China which produces 30 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases, joins the coalition. It is time for renewable energy to take over.


The writer is energy and green buildings consultant. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times

74 users have voted.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.