The coal and oil industries were great partners for such a long time. They fought together passionately against government regulations aimed at cutting carbon pollution from the burning of their products. Now they are fighting each other and it’s gotten vicious.
What broke up this happy, profitable couple is the hand writing on the wall. Climate change is now accepted by the public of all nations, including the U.S., as a reality. Governments around the world, again including the U.S., are taking steps to cut back on carbon emissions in a desperate race to save our planet from environmental disasters that we are just beginning to experience due to a warming planet.
This week Europe’s big oil companies formerly filed the divorce papers in the form of a letter to the United Nations pointing the finger at coal as the biggest contributor to climate change and it needs to be brought to its knees by putting a price on carbon possibly through a carbon tax.
Of course, burning oil also produces carbon pollution but that industry is betting on their natural gas production to be their future. Natural gas, big oil points out, produces less greenhouse gases and therefore should be promoted as an energy source over their former partner, dirty coal.
Coal’s response is that it too can pollute less if technologies would just be perfected to achieve that delusional dream of “clean coal”. But big oil isn’t having any of it and is willing to pay a carbon tax that would be less on them than on coal. By dramatically driving up the cost of burning coal, big oil sees power plants in Europe and the U.S. switching over to their natural gas leaving only China and India as the principal customers for coal for the immediate future. But China and India wouldn’t be far behind in transitioning to natural gas.
Divorces are messy and this one will be a spectacle to watch. But unlike most divorces, this one will affect all of us and there won’t be many pulling for coal.