Coal critical

In a speech on climate change, President Barack Obama singled out coal for punitive regulatory penalties in the United States and promoted natural gas as a critical bridge fuel for many countries, as the world transitions toward even cleaner sources of energy such as wind and solar.

The world burns coal because it is cheaper than natural gas, let alone wind or solar, which cost 3 times the price of coal. Within the next four years, China is expected to add about 160 new coal-fired plants to the 620 plants operating now. India expects to add 46 new coal-fired plants within the next four years.

European countries, despite the rhetoric to restrict greenhouse gases, now import coal from the United States.

Global demand for coal is expected to grow from 7.9 billion tons this year to 8.9 billion tons by 2016. Within a year or two, coal will surpass oil as the planet's primary fuel.

The United States is fortunate to have abundant natural gas supplies -- but the rest of the world will depend on coal.

Kelvin Kolb