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There are probably multiple reasons for the ongoing construction of new coal plants. Here are few ideas, some of which are certain, others less so.

2) Inertia: people and societies tend to do what they've done before...


Related to #2 is the availability of resources and existing infrastructure.

In the US, cheap natural gas is the largest reason why coal consumption has been in decline. Renewables have not been as important as the increase in gas production due to the fracking technologies. Also, natural gas is often removed from the same fields as petroleum, and many of the companies will remove both oil and gas from the same area. The oil and gas industry is larger in the US than either China or India. Below are some production numbers for oil, gas and coal, from the BP database for 2019.

Oil production, million tonnes
USA 746.7
China 191.0
India 37.5

Natural gas production, exajoules
USA 33.15
China 6.39
India 0.97

Coal production, exajoules
USA 14.30
China 79.82
India 12.73

US utilities can read the writing on the wall. They know that coal's days are numbered because of increasing regulations, so it is beneficial for them to switch over to natural gas, so long as gas is cheap. Perhaps one day, because of the quick depletion rates of fracked gas wells, maybe gas won't be quite so cheap in the future. Nuclear might then get a more serious look. You can try to deny it, but baseload power is an important part of a reliable electrical grid.

In the mean time, China and India will continue burning coal, lots of coal, and the atmospheric CO2 concentration will just keep rising.

- Pete
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