Coal, Developing Nations, and the Streisand Effect

A tweet thread by @DoombergT

1/ The California Coastal Records Project was founded in 2002 to create and maintain a complete photographic record of the Golden State’s spectacular coastline. Its primary aims were to track coastal resource degradation and expose violations on the part of developers. 

2/ Led by a husband-and-wife duo – Kenneth Adelman, photographer, and Gabrielle Adelman, helicopter pilot – the effort captured more than 12,000 photographs, taken in 500-foot increments. 

3/ The project demonstrated the benefits of leveraging fast-developing internet technology to protect priceless natural beauty, and the couple received the 2004 Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography from the Sierra Club for their work. 

4/ But not everybody was thrilled. Photograph #3,850 just happened to feature the sprawling estate of a world-famous 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 somebody chooses to spend their money, for a person who had spent years evangelizing the need for other people to reduce their carbon emissions, the home did have a certain television-preacher-with-a-private-jet feel to it. 

6/ Although hardly anyone saw or even knew of the picture – it had only been downloaded a total of six times, two of which were by her attorneys – Streisand decided it was unacceptable that this image was floating around on the internet. 

7/ She demanded the Adelmans remove it from their posted collection. As a sign of her determination that nobody should see her home without her permission, Streisand sued the couple in 2003 for violating her privacy, demanding $50 million (!) in restitution. 

8/ The staggering hypocrisy of it all backfired spectacularly. The story went viral and tabloids the world over splashed images of the estate for countless millions to see. Thus, was born the “Streisand Effect,” defined as efforts to suppress that only serve to amplify. 

9/ We were reminded of this rather humorous affair while researching the impact the recent global energy crisis will likely have on the long-term demand for coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. 

10/ In the name of reducing carbon emissions, governments across the Western hemisphere have 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 emergency, much of Western Europe effectively ceased domestic exploration and production of natural gas while preemptively closing down perfectly operational nuclear power facilities. 

12/ In an ironic twist reminiscent of Streisand’s self-defeating parade of photograph #3,850, these actions will likely result in massively more coal being burned by the rest of the world than if Europe had simply left well enough alone. 

13/ We begin with Germany. When faced with the prospect of entering the winter of 2022-2023 with insufficient energy supplies, the country roamed the world searching for every BTU it could get its hands on, regardless of price, carbon footprint, or impact on the developing world. 

14/ In particular, Germany retreated to the coal mines with the speed and efficiency of the British evacuation of Dunkirk. According to the IEA, Germany’s “significant reversal” drove European coal consumption for power up 9% in 2022 to a total of 377 MT. 

15/ The country’s return to coal, paired with a historically mild winter, may have granted it a reprieve from catastrophe, but the unavoidable consequence of both the blunders that caused the energy crisis and the chosen solution to it will reverberate in developing nations. 

16/ Given their huge populations, relatively low economic development, and the universal desire for higher standards of living, the developing nations are where the world’s ability to control carbon emissions will ultimately be decided. The decision is in. 

17/ Among the countries most damaged by the energy crisis was Pakistan. The country of nearly a quarter-billion people was literally left in the dark when Europe scrambled to secure every carrier of LNG it could get its hands on. Blackouts and political turmoil followed swiftly.

18/ In response, the country plans to quadruple its domestic coal-fired capacity, increasing coal’s share of its electricity mix from 2.3 GW currently to 10 GW in the medium term. 

19/ It’s a similar story in Indonesia, a country blessed with an abundance of domestic coal and many of the critical metals needed to produce electric vehicles. While it is more than happy to supply the world with the latter, it too will be burning copious amounts of the former.

20/ The country recently broke ground on an industrial park that spans 40,000 acres. The site will become a hub for green manufacturing using the country’s vast mineral reserves. How will this green energy utopia be powered? With coal, of course. 

21/ Beyond the more than 500 million people living in Pakistan and Indonesia combined, other major developing nations are executing similar strategies, including the two most populous. Both China and India have announced major plans for increased use of coal. 

22/ Ignoring the path function of progress (and eschewing nuclear technology) coalesced into the very cause of coal’s dramatic global renaissance. All told, the world set a record for coal consumption in 2022 and looks set to do so again this year. 

23/ Faced with the choice between a guaranteed calamity today or increasing the risk of one in the distant future, the developing world watched what Germany did instead of listening to what it said, and is now acting accordingly. 

24/ Last we checked, there are roughly two orders of magnitude more people in the bottom 99% than in the top 1%, and those vast populations will pursue the just and innately human endeavor to improve their quality of life. 

25/ If we don’t understand why coal is valuable, we have no hope of beating our addiction to it. Coal is cheap, reliable, and easy to store for indefinite periods. Replacements that fail across these dimensions have no hope of decreasing global demand for it. <fin> 

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

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Philip Mulholland
June 4, 2023 6:10 pm

we have no hope of beating our addiction to it.

We are not addicted to coal, we are addicted to life.

Reply to  Philip Mulholland
June 4, 2023 6:16 pm

Coal is life. Even pregnant women felt compelled to eat the stuff.

Reply to  Philip Mulholland
June 4, 2023 11:26 pm

It should have been written “addicted” (with the quotes) to indicate mockery at the green stupidity. The world, without the help, or rather “help” of alarmists, was quite happily transitioning from coal to oil then to gas and nuclear but because of these useful idiots coal is experiencing a renaissance and cementing most of the world in the coal-powered catagory for the next half century.

Reply to  PCman999
June 5, 2023 6:17 am

During the Carboniferous period, 360 to 300 million years ago, the atmosphere became depleted in CO2, dropping from 2500-3000 ppm to 200-300 ppm. The C02 was sequestered in biomass of dead plants dozens of meters thick that eventually compressed by a ratio of about 10:1 into seams of coal. The result of this was that plant growth worldwide was starved of its main food, CO2. The world became colder due to reduced CO2 in the atmosphere, and the world we live in today is a desert in comparison.

Mankind’s present burning of coal can only return a fraction of the CO2 that was once in the atmosphere. The warming produced by that CO2 can only be a couple of degrees compared to the 10 degrees or so of the warmer early Carboniferous.

Other than needing to preserve the fossil fuels for future economical energy production, the CO2 emissions “crisis” is very close to a middle ages “witchcraft” crisis.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
June 6, 2023 10:48 am

Coal (Anthracite coal in particular) was once a popular home heating fuel.

With the sheer stupidity of States like NY attempting to ban oil and gas boilers and furnaces, it may emerge from the ashes (no pun intended) as a popular heating fuel again.

Tom Halla
June 4, 2023 6:12 pm

We Lumpenproletariat members are so crude we do not understand why we should accept freezing in the dark.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 4, 2023 7:06 pm

Pretty sure that is the origin of the phrase “crude oil”.

June 4, 2023 7:32 pm

It really is too funny, watching for years as the Greens and others like them destroy their coal plants so they could never be re-opened, thereby aiming to head off the mythical “climate crisis”. Then in a flash, an energy crisis of their own making shuts down the climate crisis cabal, and coal is king again, along with huge natural gas imports. Who’d have thought that the Greens aren’t up to the personal sacrifice of doing without heat and electricity during winter in order to save the planet? Frankly, just about everyone, but now proven.

Jeff L
June 4, 2023 8:55 pm

Physics & chemistry will never yield to politicians. Politicians will ultimately loose, although the collateral damage caused by politicians is unfortunate

Walter Sobchak
June 4, 2023 9:19 pm

Tyler Cowen, the author and economist, voiced the same critique in a podcast with green investor Jeremy Grantham: “We make green energy much cheaper, but dirty energy becomes cheaper” and “the world just uses much more energy.”

* * *

Subsidizing somebody to use an electric car is a subsidy to consume energy, period—to drive more, to live in a bigger house, to crank the air conditioning higher. The electricity to charge the car has to come from somewhere. The minerals for the battery don’t spring from the ground. If government pays you to use less fossil fuel, it’s paying someone else to use more.

“Biden and the Media Are Electric-Vehicle Grifters” By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. on April 18, 2023 •

June 4, 2023 10:02 pm

If as much science and engineering know-how and $$$$ were being applied to coal and gas fueled power generation as are being squandered on fanciful wind &solar “renewables”, the world would be in a much more positive outlook for future generations.

June 4, 2023 10:14 pm

Over 8 billion tonnes of coal used in 2022 up from 4.7 billion tonnes just 15 years ago.
Politicians should be made to freeze in the cold for the damage they have done to their countries in reducing energy production .
Asia have taken over with China and India using record amounts of coal with China alone using over 5 billion tonnes.
When enough damage has been done the populations of many countries might wake up and elect people who put their countries first and say enough is enough .
The time must be getting fairly close as poverty and power restrictions start to hurt the majority .

Richard Page
Reply to  Graham
June 5, 2023 5:29 am

Given a few more years of this and these Asian countries will have an unassailable position as the production facilities of the world. When that happens whatever they choose to charge, we will have to pay.

Reply to  Graham
June 5, 2023 6:19 am

Some countries consume “tons” instead of “tonnes” which is lighter. Bawa’s mansion on the precipice appears to be one bad storm away from sliding into the sea……I bet Bawa’s loud voice would scream about it, no?

June 4, 2023 10:32 pm

For the #1 viewed climate change site, you guys desperately focus a lot on the use of renewable energy. Stay in your lane. You guys are all a bunch of bitches; society doesn’t need opinions and you think yours matters 💀.

Reply to  monkeybro1
June 4, 2023 11:31 pm

Think about the lie that is being used to bully and impoverish people into using “renewable” energy.

Reply to  monkeybro1
June 5, 2023 12:20 am

 society doesn’t need opinions and you think yours matters

You are clearly new to this democracy idea. But it has merit.
Sometimes people’s opiions are wrong. Sometimes people’s opinions are right. But if society has both, they have a chance to work out which one is which.

For an alternative, look at 20th Century China. No democracy. Many unnecessary deaths.

Reply to  monkeybro1
June 5, 2023 12:26 am

They are right, actually. Energy is the critical policy point about climate activism.

Climate activism at the moment consists in claiming that there is a wholly imaginary crisis caused by human CO2 emissions, and then claiming that Western economies can be converted almost entirely to electric heating and transport, which electricity is to be generated by wind and solar.

The hysteria about the supposed climate crisis is beyond argument. Every storm is cited as proof of it, its a sort of religious mania, and its impossible to have rational discussions about it.

But the crazed energy prescriptions are much easier and much more important to argue about. The proposed remedies don’t work, and even were they to work would not reduce emissions, and even if they did, would not do so enough to have any noticeable effect on global temperatures.

Energy and energy policy is what we should all be concerned about. This is the real threat. Green mania on energy has the potential to destroy Western economies and lead to large scale human misery. People here are right to be both alarmed and angry about the climate activist agenda on energy. It is a real threat.

Reply to  michel
June 5, 2023 1:48 am

Well said michel.
I ask this “monkey pox “why should western countries destroy their manufacturing industries because of expensive and intermittent energy via wind and solar when Asian countries are ramping up their coal fired electricity and smelting capacity .
This is a manufactured crisis which the world can do without as the threat of runaway climate change is never going to happen .
When some scientists met under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization in Villach in Austria in 1985 this climate threat was hatched .
Just think that is 38 years ago when unscrupulous members of the United Nations thought they could leverage this unproven threat to gain power to change the world to a socialist based structure with the United Nations in charge .
There are millions of useful idiots beavering away spreading disinformation ,targeting schools and Universities ,spreading false information via the news media.
Here are some facts that you are never told .
All climate models run hot. They are not fit for purpose as the theory that they are tuned to demands a tropical hotspot .
This tropical hotspot has never been located even with many satellites measuring temperature constantly .
The world has been warmer than present 4 times since the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago and these scientists do know this but they suppress all inconvenient facts.
There have always been typhoons ,cyclones ,tornadoes and they are not getting more frequent or more destructive despite what the spin merchants tell us .
The world has warmed coming out of the Little Ice Age in the early 1800s by less than one degree Celsius nothing to worry about .
Sea levels are not accelerating ,a rise of 15 centimeters over 100 years is nothing to fear .7 inches rise by 2123 .
Water vapour is by far the most abundant green house gas and it swamps any effect that CO2 and CH4 could exert on our climate .
Just take some time and you will realize that you have been duped Monkey.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  michel
June 5, 2023 4:44 am

“religious mania”

I’ve now read several books by climate skeptics and I read this site and many others. Many people say the climate crisis is a new religion and I agree- but I haven’t yet seen anyone write a book on that theme. I think it could be a winner and influential. It should be a big, coffee table, type book with photos, diagrams and a thorough history of the genesis and development of this new cult. Show who pushes it and who benefits and who loses.

Mark BLR
Reply to  monkeybro1
June 5, 2023 4:25 am

Stay in your lane.

My instinctive reaction was to go “full Godwin”, but I was able to control myself.

society doesn’t need opinions …

… and yet you felt the “need” to create an account, log in, and inflict your “opinion” on the rest of us.

Remember the slogan of the counter revolution : “Ha ! Ha ! Ha ! … No.”

Peaceful, implacable, and with joy.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  monkeybro1
June 5, 2023 4:39 am

“… the use abuse of renewable energy.”

fixed it!

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  monkeybro1
June 5, 2023 6:03 am

Monkey does as monkey is.

Gunga Din
Reply to  monkeybro1
June 5, 2023 8:06 am

monkeybro1, You’re welcome to you opinion.

Mark BLR
Reply to  Gunga Din
June 5, 2023 10:08 am

You’re welcome to you opinion.

One difference between libertarianism and socialism is that a socialist society can’t tolerate groups of people practicing freedom, but a libertarian society can comfortably allow people to choose voluntary socialism. — David Boaz

Gunga Din
Reply to  Mark BLR
June 5, 2023 11:48 am

Key word, voluntary.
Key words left out, the individual choosing for just himself.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Gunga Din
June 5, 2023 5:42 pm

Or zirself 🌈

Chris Hanley
June 4, 2023 10:47 pm

It’s a similar story in Indonesia, a country blessed with an abundance of domestic coal While it is more than happy to supply the world with the latter [EVs], it too will be burning copious amounts of the former

Indonesia is happy to supply the world with both EVs and coal being in 2022 the world’s top coal exporter, just beating Australia (IEA).

Richard Page
Reply to  Chris Hanley
June 5, 2023 5:25 am

Ideology is a good thing but business is, quite obviously, business!

June 5, 2023 12:14 am

The thing is, no-one outside of the political and media classes in some Western countries, mostly the English speaking ones, believes it. They mostly come to COP but its only lip service or with the aim of blocking any meaningful action.

Its quite astounding how the climate activists in UK, Australia, US, NZ, Canada don’t seem to realize how few people round the world share their mania, and how they really seem to think that (for instance) blocking an oil field development in the North Sea is really going to have any noticeable effect on either global emissions or the global climate.

When would they just admit it, whether they are right or wrong about climate, nothing they do at this point can have any effect on it. At this point its all down to China, India, Indonesia etc, and they are going to increase growth and with it emissions as fast as they can.

Reply to  michel
June 5, 2023 2:07 pm

You mention climate activists blocking an oilfield development in the North Sea which is what our now departed Prime minister Jacinda did on becoming Prime Nut.
She declared that there was to be no more exploration and development of oil and gas fields around our coast.
Our government has waged war on coal mining but three years ago had to import 1 million tonnes of coal from Indonesia to run Huntly power station because of lower than normal rainfall for our hydro stations.
There is plenty of gas off our coasts that could be developed but when Ideology takes over from common sense ” emissions ” actually increase .
Gas powered electricity emits far less than coal plus the shipping and transport emissions to Huntly ,which sits on a coal field .
Crazy is as crazy does .

Dave Andrews
June 5, 2023 7:36 am

Coal is the largest source globally for electricity generation and for the production of iron, steel and cement.

In 2000 coal use worldwide was 4699 million tonnes (Mt). In 2022 it was expected to be 8038 Mt – China 4250Mt, India 1103Mt, Other Asia 898Mt, US 465Mt, Europe 478Mt, ROW 831Mt.

In August 2022 coal powered generation in China increased by 150% year on year to over 500 terrawatt hours (TWh). This MONTHLY level of generation was higher than the ANNUAL coal power generation of any other country, except India and the US.

China accounts for more than HALF of global coal demand and its power sector alone accounts for ONE THIRD of global coal consumption.

India’s coal consumption has DOUBLED since 2007 at an annual growth rate of 6%

Indonesia is the world’s THIRD largest producer of coal and exports are expected to overtake domestic use by 2025.

All details from IEA ‘Coal 2022 Analysis and Forecast to 2025’ Dec 2022

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