The huge demand for electricity for AI is keeping polluting coal plants alive.

“We need more energy, not less.”

Came out of retirement.

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AI, which proponents say is the future of humanity, is leaving electricity infrastructure in the United States as badly maintained as in the past.

As Financial Times According to reports, the demand for electricity needed to run energy-intensive AI models is setting back the country's plans to phase out heavily polluting and non-renewable coal power.

According to FTMajor coal producers, including AlliantEnergy, have advanced sustainability goals by at least a few years. Electric utility FirstEnergy also scrapped its 2030 targets entirely in February over demand concerns. Bloomberg reported at the time.

Shifting the goalposts comes as a major win for the coal industry — and a blow to national and global environmental initiatives, for which reducing coal use is a necessary and urgent goal. It also underscores the desperation with which the U.S. is trying to stay ahead of international rivals in the ongoing AI race.

AI is an endless energy pit. How far is America willing to go to beat the world to the AI ​​punch?

Keeping the factory lights on

To put the urgency of coal reduction into context: In 2022, according to the World Resources Institute, coal was the source of 36 percent of all global power. By 2030, to stay on track for a 1.5 degree Celsius climate limit, the world would need to bring that 36 percent figure down to a relatively low 4 percent.

Between its power requirements—a ChatGPT query uses about ten times more energy than a standard Google search—and its watered-down, AI is incredibly resourceful. It seems to be making a measurable dent: Per FT, the consultancy firm Grid Strategies forecasts nationwide “demand growth of 4.7 percent over the next five years.” This prediction is reportedly double last year's figure, and while the number also takes into account cryptocurrency mining and cloud computing, AI is widely believed to be a major driving force in these migration numbers.

Rest assured, those who have something to gain from this change seem downright excited at the prospect of AI being the knight of the coal industry, causing respiratory disease.

“You can't replace fossil plants fast enough to meet demand,” said Joe Kraft, CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, whose company ranks as one of America's largest coal producers. FT. “To be a first mover on AI, we need to maintain what we have.”

“We need more energy, not less,” added Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. (Indiana is one of America's top coal-producing states.) “We, as Americans, absolutely,” he continued, “cannot afford to lose the AI ​​war.”

More on AI and energy: Chat GPT is using a surprising amount of water.

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