The amount of electricity produced from coal will increase in the U.S this year for the first time since 2014, according to new data, dealing a blow to President Biden’s climate promises when he arrives in Scotland for a United Nations climate summit on Monday.
But a surge in the cost of natural gas has seen the U.S. switching back to coal, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration
It said it expected 22 percent more coal-fired power this year than last year – the first annual increase since 2014.
The details brought fresh criticism from left and right that Biden was in danger of lecturing the developing world to ‘do as I say, not what I do.’
Steve Milloy, senior policy fellow at the Energy and Environment Legal Instituteaid the surge in coal use was the result of policies that demonized natural gas.
‘Utilities burn whatever is cheapest. That’s coal right now,’ he said.
‘Biden is carrying out this war on natural gas. If he got his way fracking would go away and fracking is the only reason US emissions have gone down in the first place.
‘If you do believe in reducing emissions, then you know, Biden’s plan and his actions are entirely backfiring.’
President Biden will arrive at the COP26 climate summit on Monday where leaders want to move the world closer to keeping temperature rises to less than 1.5C
But new data forecast that surging prices of natural gas mean the U.S. will generate more electricity from coal than it did last year – the first increases since 2014
The Miller coal Power Plant in Adamsville, Alabama, sends about as much planet warming carbon dioxide into the sky as 3.7 million cars in a year
Having set a target of halving U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade, Democrats were forced to drop a key provision from their huge Build Back Better bill last week.
The Clean Energy Performance Program would have rewarded power companies that increased their share of renewables by four percent a year – and taken a stick to those that did not.
It was jettisoned as part of a deal to keep warring Democrats together.
And Scottish environmentalists said it showed how difficult it was for Biden to push through change and take on the role of global leader.
‘It’s clear Biden has a job on his hands to get any kind of ambitious plans on climate passed, and we’ve already seen the efforts of Senator Joe Manchin and coal industry voices water down sections of the Build Back Better Bill when it comes to fossil fuels,’ said Mark Ruskell, Member of the Scottish Parliament and environment spokesperson for Scottish Greens.
‘The reality is it is smaller countries like Denmark and New Zealand who are leading global efforts by moving beyond the era of oil and gas.
‘Scotland has already moved beyond coal. Biden must spend time in Glasgow speaking to them.’
Some 20,000 people will attend talks at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, including government representatives, scientists and policy experts
Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, has also been accused of hypocrisy for failing to say he will not refuse permission for a new coal mine to open.
Biden was also criticized for the carbon footprint for his trip, flying an entourage of officials, security officers and vehicles first to Rome and then to Scotland.
The trip is estimated to generate 2.2 million pounds of carbon – mostly from the four planes needed to ferry everyone around, as well as helicopter hops and motorcades between venues.
The British prime minister Boris Johnson also faces accusations of hypocrisy ahead of the summit.
His government has the final say on plans for a new coalmine in the north of England. And although he has made clear he is not in favor of mines opening, he has been accused of offering tacit support by not yet ordering a halt to the proposal.
Last week, his government also cut taxes on domestic flights, despite warnings that it would undermine efforts to cut emissions from airliners.
Even so Britain hopes leaders gathering in Glasgow will adopt proposals to get closer to limiting the rise in the average global temperature to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to reduce carbon emissions to a net of zero by 2050.
But the run-up brought setbacks.
China and India have disappointed climate activists by digging in their heels.
On Thursday, Beijing announced it was leaving its climate goals unchanged as it told the U.N. it would reach peak emissions before 2030 and hit carbon neutrality by 2060.
Domestic coal production would continue to increase until 2025.
India, the world’s third biggest emitter, said it would not unveiling any new targets.
President Biden has also been criticized for the carbon footprint of his trip to Europe
Its environment secretary even described the drive to net zero emissions as an exercise in ‘goalpost shifting.’
Rameshwar P Guptasaid said the country’s coal production would increase in absolute terms, but would decrease as a share of total energy.
‘We depend on coal and we would like to continue,’ he said.
American conservatives see a president making bold promises that he cannot turn into legislation at home and which he cannot persuade key nations to follow, undermining America’s place in the world.
‘And what this really, really boils down to as we go into Glasgow is that this has a great deal of effect on American legitimacy, and American relevance,’ said Steven Groves, Margaret Thatcher fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
‘When you have these stupid promises and commitments to make, and so they shouldn’t be made.’