A coal factsheet for the future

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is a Paris-based intergovernmental organization formed in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis.  The IEA acts a policy adviser to its 28 member states.  It also works with non-members such as Russia, India and China, in efforts to promote alternatives to fossil fuels.

Recently the IEA came out with a report claiming that, “coal’s share of the global energy mix continues to rise, and by 2017 coal will come close to surpassing oil as the world’s top energy source”

Here are some of the other startling highlights from the IEA’s Medium-Term Coal Market Report 2012 Factsheet:

  • Coal demand is growing everywhere but in the United States:  The trend of the last decade continued in 2011, with coal supplying nearly half of the incremental primary energy supply.  Chinese demand grew by 233 mt.  The only region where coal demand declined was in the US.
  • The world will burn around 1.2 billion more tonnes of coal per year by 2017:  That’s more than the current annual coal consumption of the United States and Russia combined.
  • China has become the largest coal importer in the world: It wasn’t until 2009 that China became a net importer of coal, two years later it surpassed Japan for the top spot.
  • India will increase its influence in coal markets: With massive coal reserves, and a population of over 1.2 billion coupled with electricity shortages, the country is on the verge of becoming a major coal consumer.
  • Australia will recover its throne as the biggest coal exporter: While Indonesia currently holds the top spot with exports past the 300 mt line, Australia is expected to reach 356 mt by 2017.
  • The coal renaissance in Europe is only temporary:  High gas prices and oversupply from the US have made coal a prime fuel choice for the gas age.  But the IEA is quick to point out that increases in renewable energy and the retirement of coal plants will decrease coal consumption across Europe.
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