By Paul Homewood
Political leaders of developing countries face constant pressure to generate enough electricity for their populations as they are being asked to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. In a bold and rebellious move, India has ordered reopening more than 100 dormant coal mines to meet skyrocketing domestic power demand.
The action is just one of the many measures that the country has taken to ensure a seamless supply of coal to power plants that generate more than 70 percent of the electricity consumed by the subcontinent’s industries and 1.3 billion people. Leaders in developing parts of the world are ready to wear a badge of dishonor that climate alarmists award those who reject their absurd policy proposals.
“Earlier we were hailed as bad boys because we were promoting fossil fuel and now we are in the news that we are not supplying enough of it,” said India’s Coal Secretary, pointing to the negative coverage of a media that change colors as frequently as chameleons and the global hypocrisy over fossil fuels.
The post-pandemic economic recovery has sent power demand to unprecedented levels, resulting in rapid depletion of coal stockpiles at power plants and threatening serious consequences both to individual lives and major industrial processes.
Consistent with recent policies, India has again chosen to prioritize energy production over climate policies. The number of mines to reopen is expected to total nearly 200 soon.
In fact, the government is going as far as to remove mandatory technical requirements for the immediate operation of these mines. “With the mine developer and operator model already existing, companies bidding for shut mines need not be technically qualified to do the mining work and the same could be outsourced on payment of a fee,” said a coal ministry official.
In addition, the government has ordered the removal of environmental regulations that are needed before currently operational coal mines can increase production. In a memo, the government asked operating mines to increase production by as much as 40 percent. Forget international climate strictures, the country is dispensing with local environmental regulations to meet energy demand. Desperate times require desperate measures, we suppose.
There are talks of providing loans to increase domestic coal production. Business Standard reported that “leading mining companies, including Adani Enterprises, Vedanta and Essel Mining, have informed the coal ministry that they will be keen to add sizable chunks of investment to expand coal production. This means they will need more bank financing — marking a reversal of the climate change programme. And the government is keen to walk the extra mile to make it happen.”
The federal government has also ensured that new funding mechanisms will be put in place for its thermal plants to procure more imported coal from countries like Indonesia. Not to forget, the country’s railways have already suspended many commercial passenger trains to free up the tracks for coal freights.
These measures are just the beginning of dominance by fossil fuels as an energy source in a country that will have the world’s highest rate of growth in electricity demand over the next two decades. Last November, the Indian prime minister called out the colonial mindset of Western political leaders when it came to energy freedom in developing parts of the world.
Those in charge of India’s power generation embrace the “bad boy” tag to ensure that 1.3 billion people have affordable and reliable power. However, their legacy may be one of wisdom while those who cling to foggy, pseudo-scientific projections about climate lead their people to economic decline.
Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Va., and holds a Master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, England. He resides in Bengaluru, India.
I cannot understand why they just don’t build loads of solar farms, which the renewable lobby assures us are the cheapest source of electricity now?