Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I like that he makes it more about the economics of saving lives, which should be the primary argument.

But that is a tricky problem since we have 4 million a year dying from indoor cooking smoke, and millions more from other various aspects of extreme poverty. Most of which would be a greater ameliorated by cheap coal plants. Cheap coals plants are horrible polluters, but they are cheap, aren't as bad as indoor pollution, and allow countries to pull themselves out of abject poverty, thus saving lives immediately by fertilizing crops, making cheap concrete, powering factories, all the things a richer society needs.

With too much reliance on cheap coal for economic growth, you end up here:


China's use of coal has probably peaked. Any developing country would do well to follow China's lead and build renewables rather than coal, whatever its short-term advantages.

I agree, coal is bad and we need cheaper more reliable wind/solar. But people are dying today and coal is available today.

To see some of the issues involved with running and maintaining wind power on large scales, this is a great article showing China's struggles.


Developing countries are following China's example because it works. Renewables such as solar and wind are expensive and can't keep the lights on.

People in developing countries want "real electricity, not fake electricity" as villagers in Dharnai, India told the Chief Minister of Bihar state when he came to inaugurate a solar microgrid. (subscription required) http://www.eenews.net/climatewire/stories/1060026477

Yes, Beijing's air quality is bad, but you can put pollution control systems on power plants and China is doing exactly that. A very large problem for Beijing is uncontrolled pollution from automobiles, scooters, trucks and other small engines.

The point about coal is that it keeps the lights on and it is affordable. That matters a huge amount when you don't have electricity.

China added 39 gigawatts of new coal power capacity in 2014. They issued permits for at least 150 new coal plants in 2015. They're building a new coal power plant every week, and issuing a new permit every two days. Just the new permits issued for 2015 alone would be equal to 40%+ of all US coal power plant output. While we're at it, let's remember to throw in the recent 14% revision upward in their coal use.

Their coal use clearly hasn't even remotely peaked. All the plans on their table right now call for building a lot more coal power plants.


Not everyone agrees. Greenpeace's analysis suggests that the new coal capability isn't being used (yet), which has lead to a 4% drop in actual coal consumption this year:


Their analysts are working on the ground in China, whereas many other Western agencies just look at official numbers... So the truth may be somewhere in between, but Greenpeace's analysis can't be summarily discounted.

> China's use of coal has probably peaked. Any developing country would do well to follow China's lead...

Hmm. I think it's more correct to say the /rate of increase/ of China's use of coal has probably peaked.

"China added 39 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity in 2014 — 3 gigawatts more than it added in 2013. That is equivalent to three 1,000 megawatt units every four weeks.[v] At the peak, from 2005 through 2011, China added about two 600-megawatt coal plants a week, for 7 straight years. And, China is expected to add the equivalent of a new 600-megawatt plant every 10 days for the next 10 years. "


China is increasing renewable power generation, but they continue to add coal power generation as well.

Greenpeace's analysis suggests that China's coal consumption has dropped 4% this year:


The discrepancy is mentioned in Greenpeace's report: "China is still building lots of new coal capacity — it’s just not using it."

But is a cheap coal plant a worse polluter than N household cooking fires, where N is the number of households that the cheap coal plant enables to switch to electric cooking? (Don't forget that those households also probably heat the house with wood fires or something equally nasty.)

"The economics of saving lives" are usually pretty shoddy, frankly. Factor isolation is a nightmare, and as you point out, other goods may well counterbalance "bads."

Typical logical flaw of applying the argument to various other argually retard comparison.

The comparison here is between clean energy and fossil fuel. It has little to do with cooking, or extreme poverty.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact