Still keeps growing: Despite all calls to the contrary, China's coal plant fleet has expanded even through the pandemic and continues to add to the global capacity | Photo: The Independent

GEM: Near 1% rise in global coal power capacity as economies recover from COVID-19

A new report by the energy markets tracker GEM (Global Energy Monitor) found that there was a 0.87% increase (18.2GW) in the global coal power capacity last year, evidently because of the economies recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Over half of the new capacity came from China, and a total of 176GW of new coal plant capacity was brought under construction in 2021. The report also found that China was the only country that was actively approving new coal plants, while almost all other countries had significantly scaled back their plans for coal power. 

Dutch oil and gas firm okayed to drill in North Sea as Germany pulls away from Russian gas 

The German government okayed, for the first time, drilling for natural gas in the North Sea (20km north of the Wadden Sea Islands) as it ramps up its pullback from Russian gas supplies. The pullback is the EU’s response to sanctioning Russia for its military offensive against Ukraine and the German government’s decision could unlock around 60 billion cubic metres of the fuel, which would be enough to supply half of The Netherlands’ and Germany’s annual gas consumption. One-Dyas, the firm okayed for the extraction, will commence operations “as soon as possible” in the controversial territory, but the Dutch ministry of economic affairs has indicated that there would not be any significant damage to the region’s ecosystem. 

China’s imports of Russian coal grow amidst latter’s tightening international isolation

China is reported to have more than doubled its imports of Russian steel-making coal—from 550,000 tonnes last March to 1.4 million tonnes last month—as the latter supplies heavily discounted quantities of the fuel to its neighbour amidst growing international isolation. China imports coking coal as its domestic coal grades do not carry enough calorific value to be used for steel manufacture, and the country’s vice foreign minister justified the purchase amidst growing calls to further isolate Russia by referring to the “great resilience and internal dynamism of bilateral cooperation” between the two nations. Its own production of thermal coal, too, is on the rise, and its purchase of Russian coking coal is still at prices that are well below what it pays competitors Indonesia and Mongolia. 

US: Biden govt to re-open drilling leases on public lands despite campaign promise 

The Biden government announced that it would re-open 145,000 acres of public lands to oil and gas drilling, despite the president specifically having campaigned not to do so in February 2020 by saying “And by the way, no more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period” . The leases will be issued in what is a possibly a step for the US to boost its domestic supply of oil and gas as the global prices of the fuels rise amidst the Russian military offensive on Ukraine. However, this time the new leases will increase the royalties payable to the government to 18.75% of the revenues, which is up from the figure of 12.5% that has been frozen in place for a century.

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