Absent Climate Policies, Global Coal Use Will Soar In Coming Decades, EIA Report Says

CREDIT: Shutterstock

(Credit: Shutterstock)

(Credit: Shutterstock)

The federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its 2013 International Energy Outlook yesterday, and the picture it paints of coal use is not pretty. Furthermore, the overwhelming bulk of the increase will come from the developing world.

If business as usual continues for the world’s climate policy, the EIA’s mid-range projections show consumption of coal — the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of carbon emissions — increasing by over a third by 2040. It nearly doubles by that time under the worst case scenarios. Specifically, the EIA’s “Reference Case” projects global coal consumption jumping from 147.4 quadrillion Btu of energy in 2010 to 219.5 in 2040. That’s despite coal dropping slightly, from 28 to 27 percent, as a share of the world’s overall energy supply.

But looking across the range of scenarios the EIA lays out, coal consumption could only reach 182.2 quadrillion Btu by 2040 — or go as high as 297.3 quadrillion Btu.

What the EIA’s interactive tables also reveal is that virtually all this increase in consumption will come from China, India, and the developing world. Under every scenario, the United States’ coal consumption plateaus around 22 quadrillion Btu between 2010 and 2040. The advanced countries as a whole stop at 44.8 quadrillion Btu total in 2010, then stay flat or decrease slightly. Meanwhile, China, India, and the other developing countries in Asia rocket from 88.4 quadrillion Btu in 2010 to 156.8 quadrillion under the Reference Case — or 231.6 quadrillion under the worst case scenario. Russia and the other developing European, the Middle East, Central and South America, and Africa all see jumps of varying degrees as well.

At around 20 quadrillion Btu of consumption in 2040, America will remain the third biggest user of coal in the world. The onus remains on us to throw everything we’ve got at renewables, regardless of what the rest of the world is doing.

2 Responses to Absent Climate Policies, Global Coal Use Will Soar In Coming Decades, EIA Report Says

  1. rollin says:

    China is the largest user of coal. China is planning a large number of nuclear reactors but they will not come on line for many years, in the meantime electric demand could increase.

    Unless curbed by law and sanctions, fossil fuels will be used at a high rate. If the economy were to tank again, there would be a reduction in the rate of fossil fuel use but I doubt if it will reduce the total use by very much.

    At this point we are relying on economic and geologic constraints to bring down fossil fuel use. That scenario provides little reduction in climate change. As oil wanes, natural gas and especially coal will come more into play, at least in the next thirty years.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    EIA is a little lost here, and this is an example of extrapolating past trends decades into the future. By 2040, Arctic ice will be gone, and we may already be at 3C. A big consumption curve for coal is a little ridiculous, given the level of catastrophes our children will be experiencing by then.