The World Is Burning More Coal Than Ever

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Global coal use may be slowing down due to global warming regulations, but the world is still using more coal than ever before, according to a report by an international energy agency.

Politicians and environmentalists around the world heralded the ratification of the Paris climate agreement this year, but the United Nations (U.N.) treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions hasn’t done much to squash demand for energy in developing countries.

“The world is burning more coal than ever,” reads a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). “Now we are witnessing another halt, but, even so, if we consider coal consumption from a historical perspective, the world has never burned as much coal.”

China is the main driver of global coal growth, and IEA expects coal use to keep growing until 2021 depending on what the Chinese decide. Environmentalists have tried to claim China is weaning itself off coal, but more recent reports indicate the communist country is mining more of it.

“Because of the implications for air quality and carbon emissions, coal has come under fire in recent years, but it is too early to say that this is the end for coal,” Keisuke Sadamori, the director of the IEA’s energy markets, said in a statement.

IEA predicts coal share in the global energy mix peaked in 2011, but the agency notes, “coal will continue to be the preferred source of power generation” because it’s “relatively affordable and widely available.”

Coal will still provide 27 percent of the world’s electricity by 2021, the IEA concludes, despite accounting for 45 percent of the world’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Coal has been the biggest target of global warming activists in recent years because of its high carbon content compared to natural gas or other energy sources.

In the U.S., environmental lawsuits and Obama administration regulations helped reduce coal consumption 15 percent as power plants were forced to retire. New drilling techniques allowed companies to cheaply switch to natural gas instead of having to make costly upgrades to aging coal plants.

In contrast, China promises to ramp up its coal use by as much as 20 percent.

China’s new five-year plan would “raise coal-fired power capacity from around 900 gigawatts last year to as high as 1,100 gigawatts by 2020,” which is “more than the total power capacity of Canada,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

The news came after U.N. delegates met in Marrakech, Morocco to hash out implementation of the Paris agreement that countries crafted in France last year.

China pledged to “peak” emissions by 2030, which energy analysts have criticized as not actually doing anything to cut global warming emissions.

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