Coal use is at an all-time high because we need it.
Here in the Denver Front Range region, I see miles-long Burlington Northern trains with hundreds of coal cars, fully loaded heading south, and coming back empty heading north.
Coal, baby! It will keep America warm and well-lit for the next thousand years.
For years, climate experts have been begging the world’s biggest economies to wean themselves off of fossil fuels. Instead, coal use is at an all-time high, hitting a brand new record of 8.3 billion metric tons in 2022, up 3.3% from the prior year, according to figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The uptick in coal demand has been concurrent with a clean energy boom, as countries across the world turned to non-petroleum-based energy sources last year thanks to soaring oil and gas prices.
All told, the world produced 10,440 terawatt hours from coal in 2022 – about 36% of the world’s electricity generation.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, which kicked off an entire war over energy supply and sanctions in Europe over the course of 2022, sent shockwaves through global energy markets. To shore up energy security, global economies scrambled to find alternative energy supply chains.
In the West, this mostly manifested as intensive growth in the renewable energy sector. In China and India, however, the coal business is booming.
The picture is a bit more complex in China, however, where renewables growth has outpaced every other country on earth several times over, but coal still reigns supreme in the global energy mix.
As a result, “by region, coal demand fell faster than previously expected in the first half of this year in the United States and the European Union – by 24% and 16%, respectively,” the IEA said in a statement accompanying its Coal Market Update report.
“However, demand from the two largest consumers, China and India, grew by over 5% during the first half, more than offsetting declines elsewhere,” the statement went on to say.