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Worldwide Demand for Coal Expected to Rise in Next Few Years

The world’s demand for coal will grow to 9 billion tons by 2019, according to a report released last month from the International Energy Agency.

In spite of all efforts to reduce its consumption, oversupply and low prices are still attractive to many countries, especially in Asia, to fulfill demands for electricity.

The only two continents where consumption will decline is North America and Europe. All other continents, aside from Antarctica, will see a growth in coal consumption. Overall, global demand will grow by 2.1 percent per year until 2019.

The report highlights the role of China in continuing to be the major factor in importing more coal. The country consumes more than 50 percent of the world’s coal. The report also found, despite the constant talk on the fall of coal in China, there would be no peak demand for coal within the next five years.

This is in contrast to President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreeing on a plan to curb climate change where one part of the deal was to reduce coal use in both countries. China pledged to reduce its coal consumption for the future and substitute with renewable energy.

As noted by the report, however, even such efforts cannot stop the demand for coal:

Despite such strong assumptions, as well as decreasing energy intensity in the Chinese economy and gross domestic product and power demand growth decoupling notably, additional coal is still needed to meet energy demand.

To provide one example, China attempted to turn to shale gas in the same way the U.S. successfully turned to fracking, but, as pointed out by researchers Christian Downie and Peter Drahos in a recent report, they may as well be “waiting for Godot.”

China’s environment for fracking is not the same as the U.S. and they will struggle in turning to “clean coal”:

Our analysis of the US shale gas revolution shows that it is embedded in an institutional environment that cannot be easily copied by China. Its origins lie in a large community of independent producers that self-identifies as a group of mavericks prepared to take gambles where the oil and gas majors are not. The size of this community has allowed it to scale, quite rapidly, its various incremental innovations. Clearly, the fracking revolution in the US cannot be transferred to China in some simple turnkey fashion.

More troublesome is, if China will continue to rely on coal use, is black lung disease, which more than six million civilians currently suffer from. Should China continue to rely on coal, it will lead to the deaths of more than 80 million people by 2033, according to a study from 2008. It should be noted such a figure also takes into consideration smokers, but the casualties are still high.

Treatment for black lung disease is hard to find for miners in China and there is also the issue of deadly coal mine explosions. Further demand for coal will certainly make these issues persist for at least the next decade.

In general, China will possibly ensure its coal industry will still be strong, especially after placing tariffs on coal imported into the country to develop its own industry. Although, such tariffs were cut as the government is also preoccupied by economic growth.

Yet China is not the only area the report focused on. While the paper acknowledged no other country demands as much coal as China, demand is still high in the region. To provide an indication of coal’s power in Asia, Japan pledged to provide more than $1 billion to tackle climate change. It went to the construction of three coal-fueled power plants.

India is one country also highlighted by the report, which is noted as another country where coal demand will grow. Piyush Goyal, the Indian minister of power and energy, believed the country could double its coal production and energy usage by 2019. The report points out “India is the growth engine, with coal imports projected to grow by 9.7% per year.” Just last year, the country imported 19 percent more coal to fulfill demand.

What about other countries near Asia such as Australia? It is safe to say Australia will be happy for the next few years. Tony Abbott, the prime minister, is notoriously against climate change, yet it also a staunch defender of the nation’s coal industry. He once infamously quipped “coal was good for humanity.” So good for humanity that the country’s declining industry is affecting the environment due to climate change.

Industry analysts and media figures may claim there is the potential of clean coal, but it is nonsense along with any other technology claiming to be effective in reducing the worst of fossil fuels. As scholar Robert Pollin points out, such technologies would have already been implemented.

The truth is money to be made in coal with one example being China Light & Power, one of China’s largest energy companies, investing more than $2 billion to build a coal power plant in India. Another example is Kazakhstan where the goal is to attract more than $17 billion by 2017 for many industries, especially coal.

With coal set to be used more and more by countries, this presents a huge problem for future generations as coal will further add to climate change. Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of IEA, provided a blunt explanation on the efforts of nations to curb climate change:

We have heard many pledges and policies aimed at mitigating climate change, but over the next five years they will mostly fail to arrest the growth in coal demand.

A recent study found more than 80 percent of coal would need to stay in the ground to have a chance to avoid the worst of climate change. The cruel reality is this will be neglected in favor of sustainability and the future of coal means it will be a profitable commodity for corporations.

As U.S. commentators continue the charade of “the war on coal,” coal companies will look to places like Asia to fulfill demands and stuff their own pockets. Future generations will bear the costs of such schemes.

Creative Commons-Licensed Photo from Flickr by Jeffrey Beall

CommunityThe Bullpen

Coal Use Expected To Rise In Next Few Years

The world’s demand for coal will grow to 9 billion tonnes by 2019, according to a report released last month from the International Energy Agency.

In spite of all efforts to reduce its consumption, oversupply and low prices are still attractive to many countries, especially in Asia, to fulfill demands for electricity.

The only two continents where consumption will decline is North America and Europe. All other continents, aside from Antarctica, will see a growth in coal consumption. Overall, global demand will grow by 2.1 percent per year until 2019.

The report highlighted the role of China in continuing to be the major factor in importing more coal. Indeed, the country consumes more than 50 percent of the world’s coal. The report also found, despite the constant talk on the fall of coal in China, there would be no peak demand for coal within the next five years.

This is in contrast to President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreeing on a plan to curb climate change where one part of the deal was to reduce coal use in both countries. China pledged to reduce its coal consumption for the future and substitute with renewable energy.

As noted by the report, however, even such efforts cannot stop the demand for coal:

Despite such strong assumptions, as well as decreasing energy intensity in the Chinese economy and gross domestic product and power demand growth decoupling notably, additional coal is still needed to meet energy demand.

To provide one example, China attempted to turn to shale gas in the same way the U.S. successfully turned to fracking, but, as pointed out by researchers Christian Downie and Peter Drahos in a recent report, they may as well be “waiting for Godot.” China’s environment for fracking is not the same as the U.S. and they will struggle in turning to “clean coal”:

Our analysis of the US shale gas revolution shows that it is embedded in an institutional environment that cannot be easily copied by China. Its origins lie in a large community of independent producers that self-identifies as a group of mavericks prepared to take gambles where the oil and gas majors are not. The size of this community has allowed it to scale, quite rapidly, its various incremental innovations. Clearly, the fracking revolution in the US cannot be transferred to China in some simple turnkey fashion.

More troublesome is, if China will continue to rely on coal use, is black lung disease, which more than six million civilians currently suffer from. Should China continue to rely on coal, it will lead to the deaths of more than 80 million people by 2033, according to a study from 2008. It should be noted such a figure also takes into consideration smokers, but the casualties are still high.

Treatment for black lung disease is hard to find for miners in China and there is also the issue of deadly coal mine explosions. Further demand for coal will certainly make these issues persist for at least the next decade.

In general, China will possibly ensure its coal industry will still be strong, especially after placing tariffs on coal imported into the country to develop its own industry. Although, such tariffs were cut as the government is also preoccupied by economic growth.

Yet China is not the only area the report focused on. While the paper acknowledged no other country demands as much coal as China, demand is still high in the region. To provide an indication of coal’s power in Asia, Japan pledged to provide more than $1 billion to tackle climate change. It went to the construction of three coal-fueled power plants.

India is one country also highlighted by the report, which is noted as another country where coal demand will grow. Piyush Goyal, the Indian minister of power and energy, believed the country could double its coal production and energy usage by 2019. The report points out “India is the growth engine, with coal imports projected to grow by 9.7% per year.” Just last year, the country imported 19 percent more coal to fulfill demand.

What about other countries near Asia such as Australia? It is safe to say Australia will be happy for the next few years. Tony Abbott, the prime minister, is notoriously against climate change, yet it also a staunch defender of the nation’s coal industry. He once infamously quipped “coal was good for humanity.” So good for humanity that the country’s declining industry is affecting the environment due to climate change.

Industry analysts and media figures may claim there is the potential of clean coal, but it is nonsense along with any other technology claiming to be effective in reducing the worst of fossil fuels. As scholar Robert Pollin points out, such technologies would have already been implemented.

The truth is money to be made in coal with one example being China Light & Power, one of China’s largest energy companies, investing more than $2 billion to build a coal power plant in India. Another example is Kazakhstan where the goal is to attract more than $17 billion by 2017 for many industries, especially coal.

With coal set to be used more and more by countries, this presents a huge problem for future generations as coal will further add to climate change. Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of IEA, provided a blunt explanation on the efforts of nations to curb climate change:

We have heard many pledges and policies aimed at mitigating climate change, but over the next five years they will mostly fail to arrest the growth in coal demand.

A recent study found more than 80 percent of coal would need to stay in the ground to have a chance to avoid the worst of climate change. The cruel reality is this will be neglected in favor of sustainability and the future of coal means it will be a profitable commodity for corporations.

As U.S. commentators continue the charade of “the war on coal,” coal companies will look to places like Asia to fulfill demands and stuff their own pockets. Future generations will bear the costs of such schemes.

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Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan is a freelance journalist in Queens, NY and written for publications such as The Nation, In These Times, Truthout and more.