Market Snapshot: Santa Claus to phase out coal in holiday operations

Release date: 2017-12-19

Santa is phasing-out coal at the North Pole in an effort to help Canada meet its climate change commitments. Coal will be phased-out in fireplaces, furnaces and boilers that generate the heat and power used in Santa’s toy workshops. Instead of lumps of coal, Santa will give naughty children an alternate fuel that emits less carbon dioxide (CO2).

Santa usually gives naughty children a lump of coal about the size of a small apple containing around 5 megajoules (MJ) of energy. Mrs. Claus created a graph comparing other options that also have 5 MJ of energy. Renewable options on the graph are wood pellets, ethanol, or a 7 cm by 7 cm photovoltaic (PV) solar panel generating for one year. These fuels are not as energy dense as coal so they would fill up the sleigh faster, meaning more trips for the reindeer. However, as we learned last year, reindeer have very low CO2 emissions.

What does 5 megajoules of energy look like?

Source and Description

Source: NEB, ECCC

Description: The first column chart illustrates the volume taken up by 5 MJ of different fuels. 5 MJ of coal is 201 ml; diesel is 129 ml; gasoline is 144 ml; LNG is 224 ml; wood pellets is 490 ml; ethanol is 212 ml, uranium is 0.0004 ml, and 5 MJ would be generated by a solar panel 7 cm x 7 cm after one year of operation.

The second column chart illustrates the per cent rediction in CO2 emitted per quantity of energy compared to coal. Diesel emits 18% less compared to coal; gasoline emits 25% less; liquefied natural gas (LNG) emits 45% less; wood pellets emit 95% less; enthanol emits 97% less; uranium and solar panels emit 100% less.

Thinking of the reindeer, Mrs. Claus added some more energy dense non-renewable options such as diesel, gasoline, liquefied natural gas, and uranium. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is about 11% bulkier than coal and uranium is extremely dense. Five megajoules of uranium U-235 would occupy 0.0004 ml (the size of a coarse grain of sand). These fuels also produce less CO2 than coal. Natural gas is used for electricity generation across Canada and emits 45% less CO2 per unit of energy than coal.

Santa’s coal phase-out was prompted by the climate actions of Ontario and Alberta, which have also phased out or are planning to phase out coal for electricity generation. Transitioning from coal to other fuels has the additional benefit of reducing particulate matter emissions. Inhaling particulate matter increases the risk of respiratory diseases in humans and elves, and can adversely affect the flight efficiency and handling characteristics of reindeer-driven aerial sleighs. Additionally, global warming puts Frosty the Snowman and all other snowpersons at risk.

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