Friday, August 9, 2013

These Are Happy Days For Coal Globally: Consumption Is Up 50% In 10 Years

Bloomberg wrote this week another coal-is-doomed story, triggered by decisions by the World Bank and European Investment Blank to not fund coal plants.  Yet, somehow coal consumption goes up!

To give Bloomberg credit, buried deep in its story, one finds this fact: "Coal is now used to generate 40 percent of the world’s electricity, and its use has grown more than 50 percent in the past decade, according to EIA."

Despite the rash of stories that coal is doomed, data show that coal is thriving globally.  In fact, these are happy days for coal in China, India, even Germany, just about everywhere except for the USA.  Outside the USA, coal is benefitting from expensive natural gas, expensive oil, expensive nuclear power, and rapidly growing energy demand. Only in the USA is coal facing competition from cheap gas, a fuel that can destroy quickly coal usage, when the price of gas is competitive.  But gas is not competitive with coal in Europe or Asia and so coal booms.

Around the world and in America, renewables are growing rapidly.  But fast growing renewables generally do not threaten coal's rising fortunes, since the new renewable capacity being added each year is typically not enough to meet fully just the annual global increase in energy demand.  That is true even in the United States, where increases in energy demand are much more modest than in Asia and the developing world.


  1. There is something I don't follow in your argument, namely: you seem to forget that climate change is a global phenomenon and that it doesn't really matter whether CO2 is emitted in the USA or not, as long as it is emitted into the atmosphere.

    What matters is the "global CO2 additionality" created by new greenhouse gas emissions stacking up through shale gas use, since global markets conveniently ensure that the US coal surplus is used in other global regions...

    The Guardian offers a really good description of this phenomenon:

  2. The decline in US emissions because of gas displacing coal and oil and energy efficiency did not cause Chinese and Indian emissions to increase. Whether the Chinese or Indians bought US coal or not, they would have burned coal to make power. They will keep burning coal from somewhere until they substitute something for coal. Just as the US had been doing until this year. I wish the Chinese were building nukes to displace coal or renewable to displace coal or using their huge shale gas resource to do so.