Ultimate irony: Climate change forcing coal-fired comeback in many regions

Climate change is pegged as the disastrous result of emissions from coal-fired plants and other fossil-fuel emitters.

Long-term studies seem to back this up as the ultimate cause and effect of the Industrial Age. Perhaps the ultimate irony of dramatic weather events, then, is that they are forcing a coal comeback and sustaining gas-fired generation in many regions this year.

In Chile, bonds backed only by a coal-fired generation facility staged a massive rally as drought pinches hydro power almost to a standstill there. In Britain, the grid system was forced to re-engage the coal-fired West Burton A power plant after hot weather stilled wind turbines and gas prices went through the roof.

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This past winter, freezing weather in the U.S. southwest caused plants of all resources to trip offline, but coal plants stepped in to take a larger portion of the load. Even so, American utilities are still retiring or planning to shut down coal-fired generation and replace it with renewables, natural gas or hydrogen hybrid projects of the future.

The Chilean Huasco coal-fired plant has been needed more than in years as rain levels have dropped to nearly half of normal levels this year. Chile lawmakers had been pushing for regulations to phase coal out of the power mix completely by 2025.

In California, the system operator CAISO has asked for federal approval to run numerous gas-fired plants at capacity despite the resulting emissions exceeding approved levels. The gas-fired rescue is needed because drought is endangering hydropower generation all over the western U.S, including the iconic Hoover Dam.

China is planning to build 43 new coal-fired power plants over the next few years, according to various reports.

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