Coal and Natural Gas Use Still Rising

According to a recent study conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online service, oil is still the leading energy source around the globe but the use of coal and natural gas continues to grow in significance.

According to the research by authors Matt Lucky and Reese Rogers, coal increased by 5.4 percent and natural gas use grew by 2.2 percent in 2011. Because both are primary fuels and often substitutes for the other, trends of the fuels need to be examined.

While the U.S. remains one of the world’s largest coal users, just over 70 percent of global demand in 2011 was in countries outside of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), including China and India. Consumption in non-OECD countries grew 8 percent (the equivalent of 2.63 billion tons of oil) in 2011.

Coal production is concentrated mainly in China, but the U.S. holds the largest proved coal reserves, with 28 percent of the global total, followed by Russia at 18 percent, China at 13 percent, Australia at 9 percent, and India at 7 percent. These five countries accounted for three-quarters of proved coal reserves and three-quarters of global coal production in 2011.

For natural gas, global consumption grew at a slower rate than coal to reach the equivalent of 2.91 billion tons of oil in 2011. The U.S. and Russia accounted for nearly 40 percent of the world’s output in 2011, contributing 20 percent and 18.5 percent, respectively, followed by Canada, Iran, and Qatar at 4–5 percent each.