Equivalent to Current Coal Consumption of Russia and U.S. CombinedForecasts are not destiny, but when created by informed people they can represent our best guess about the future. In the case of the latest report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), it would be great to prove the forecasters wrong, because what they predict is not very appetizing: BY 2017, the world could burn 1.2 billion additional tons of coal per year, mostly thanks to growth in India and China. This would mean that coal is catching up with oil as an energy source, with 2017 "global coal consumption [standing] at 4.32 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (btoe), versus around 4.40 btoe for oil."
Since 1 ton of coal produces 2.86 tons of CO2 when burned (because each carbon atom combines with 2 oxygen atoms from the atmosphere), this would mean an additional 3.4 billion tons of CO2 produced just from this extra coal. Definitely not a good scenario; we shouldn't run large scale experiments with our planet's atmosphere, it's our only life support system and the less we mess with it, the better.
Even the lower demand for coal in the U.S. because of low natural gas prices is just shifting the problem (though only partially):
"As US coal demand declines, more US coal is going to Europe, where low CO2 prices and high gas prices are increasing the competitiveness of coal in the power generation system. This trend, however, is close to peaking, and coal demand by 2017 in Europe is projected to drop to levels slightly above those in 2011, due to increasing renewable generation and decommissioning of old coal plants."
Let's Prove the Forecasters WrongWhat we truly need is clean energy innovation and investment. We have so many ways available to speed up the transition to clean energy, we just need to implement them with much more urgency!
The photo above shows a coal mine in China.