Coal's future darkens around the world
By Jonathan Fahey, APNEW YORK--The future of coal is getting darker. Economic forces, pollution concerns and competition from cleaner fuels are slowly nudging nations around the globe away from the fuel that made the industrial revolution possible.
September 20, 2013, 12:21 am TWN
The U.S. will burn 943 million tons of coal this year, only about as much as it did in 1993. Now it's on the verge of adopting pollution rules that may all but prohibit the construction of new coal plants.
And China, which burns 4 billion tons of coal a year — as much as the rest of the world combined — is taking steps to slow the staggering growth of its coal consumption and may even be approaching a peak.
Michael Parker, a commodities analyst at Bernstein Research, calls the shift in China “the beginning of the end of coal.”
While global coal use is almost certain to grow over the next few years — and remain an important fuel for decades after that — coal may soon begin a long slow decline.
Coal has been the dominant fuel for power generation for a century because it is cheap, plentiful, and easy to ship and store. But it emits a host of pollution-forming gases and soot particles, and double the greenhouse gas emissions of its closest fossil fuel competitor, natural gas.
Now utilities are relying more on natural gas to generate electricity as discoveries around the world boost the fuel's supplies. The big, expanding economies of China and India are building more nuclear and hydroelectric power plants. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, while still a small fraction of the global energy mix, are growing fast as they get cheaper. And a greater emphasis on efficiency is tempering global growth in electricity demand.