The World Market for Coal: What's going on the C of "RE less than C"?

Posted in Conferences, Companies, Science on September 18, 2008

The success of Google's "RE less than C" initiative hinges on coal (C). This talk will review major developments in the coal industry worldwide and explain why coal will be very difficult to unseat in the emerging markets where growth in consumption is most rapid. In the industrialized world the situation is different, and the recent explosion in the cost of building and operating new coal-fired power plants means that in some settings renewable energy (RE) already cheaper than coal. Yet the coal industry has never been so competitive as it is today, and it is possible that coal could remain a dominant energy source even in a carbon-constrained world. So far, however, actual investment in the new technologies needed to make coal competitive has been about two orders of magnitude less than needed.

Speaker: David Victor
David Victor is Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Director of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. The Program, launched in September 2001, focuses on power sector reform, the emerging global market for natural gas, energy services for the world's poor, the practical challenges in managing climate change, and the role of state-controlled oil and gas companies in the world's hydrocarbon markets. Much of the Program's research concentrates in Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa. He teaches energy law, regulation and political economy at Stanford Law School.

Previously, Dr. Victor directed the Science and Technology program at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where he remains Adjunct Senior Fellow. He directed the Council's task force on energy co-chaired by Jim Schlesinger and John Deutch and is senior adviser to the task force on climate change chaired by governors George Pataki and Tom Vilsack. He also leads a study group that is examining ways to improve management of the nation's $50b strategic oil reserve. In the past, his research at the Council his research focused on the sources of technological innovation and the impact of innovation on economic growth. His research also examined global forest policy, global warming, and genetic engineering of food crops.

His Ph.D. is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Political Science and International Relations), his B.A. from Harvard University (History and Science).

His publications include: Natural Gas and Geopolitics (Cambridge University Press, July 2006), The Collapse of the Kyoto Protocol and the Struggle to Slow Global Warming (Princeton University Press, April 2001; second edition July 2004); Climate Change: Debating America's Policy Options (New York: Council on Foreign Relations); Technological Innovation and Economic Performance (Princeton University Press, January 2002, co-edited with Benn Steil and Richard Nelson); and an edited book of case studies on the implementation of international environmental agreements (MIT Press, 1998). He is author of more than 100 essays and articles in scholarly journals, magazines and newspapers, such as Climatic Change, The Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Nature, The New York Times, Science, and Scientific American, and The Washington Post.

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