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As Americans Suffer Blackouts, China Ramps Up Carbon Emissions

Hearing the messages of Green New Deal politicians in this election campaign, one might think that unless America forces its way to zero-emission electricity and all electric cars and buildings by 2035, Earth's climate will heat up past the point of no return. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is that unless China, India and other major emitters in Asia, Africa and Latin America also take serious action now to reduce CO2, anything we do to reduce carbon emissions here in America will do little to change the path of global climate change.

That's not to say we shouldn't do our part. In fact we already lead the world in reducing CO2 emissions by switching from coal to natural gas and adding renewables. Those reductions continue. In the first half of 2020 compared to the first half of 2019, U.S. coal generation declined an additional 30%, while gas power rose 9% and renewables rose 5%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

California's blackouts have proved that forcing transition to wind and solar without maintaining adequate and always-available natural gas generating capacity puts people through an energy cost and availability wringer. It results in blackouts and brownouts; along with double, triple or more the household energy bills compared to other states.

Such a well-intentioned but misguided quest puts enormous financial and energy availability burdens on Americans and our economy while providing very little offsetting benefit to the climate. That's because the real climate problem isn't coming from America, which is already on a clear path to lower carbon emissions thanks to natural gas, wind and solar energy.

Climate is a global, not a national phenomenon, and is driven by cumulative global emissions. China, India and other Asian countries continue to add high-emitting coal plants while America and Europe continue to decommission the shrinking number that remain.

From January 2018 to June 2019, countries outside of China decreased their total coal power capacity by 8.1 GigaWatts (GW), while China increased its coal fleet by 42.9 GW.

Source: GEM, Global Coal Plant Tracker, July 2019.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. China currently has 206 GW of coal generating capacity in planning or under construction.

That's more that the total number being built in the rest of the world combined, and will add to China's 1,000 GW capacity already in operation.

By comparison, total U.S coal generating capacity is 229 GW and declining rapidly. Total U.S coal-fired output declined 16% in 2019 to just under 1 million GW hours, the lowest level since 1976, while natural gas generation grew 8% to 1.6 million GW hours. The U.S. hasn't built a new coal plant since 2015.

Meanwhile, although China doesn't publish data on electric generating output from coal, they do estimate coal capacity utilization at about 50%.

That means their 1,000+ GW of coal capacity generated at least 4.4 million GW hours in 2019, over 4 times more than the U.S. At a rate of 2.2 pounds of CO2 emitted per KW hour of coal generation, that means 4.9 billion tons of CO2 were emitted from Chinese coal in 2019 versus 1.1 billion tons from the U.S. That also means 15% of all 2019 global CO2 emissions from power generation came from Chinese coal, while only 3.2% come from U.S coal generation. And theirs is growing while ours declines.

If Green New Deal proponents want to make a real difference in climate change, they will direct their passions to driving change where it really matters and hold climate marches in Tiananmen Square. Their advocacy here ignores the real issues and relies on the naive belief that if America leads the way, China will surely be inspired to follow.

So spread the word: when you hear candidates claim that America must adopt radical, expensive and difficult new energy policies to lead the world to a lower carbon future, they've got goals in mind other than actually lowering global carbon emissions - like capitalizing on climate change fears to gain the political power necessary to eliminate natural gas from America's energy mix.

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