Jun 19, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Coal persists worldwide despite its downward spiral in the U.S.

Data: BP; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: BP; Chart: Axios Visuals

Global coal consumption dipped by 0.6% in 2019, the fourth decline in six years, but the most carbon-intensive fuel remains by far the largest source of power generation in world, per BP's latest global data review.

Why it matters: Coal's persistence in the global mix, even as it loses some ground, is among the major reasons why the world is far, far away from achieving steep emissions declines needed to meet the goals of the Paris climate deal.

The big picture: It's something of a bifurcated world, with consumption falling sharply in the U.S. and Europe, while still trending upward in the Asia-Pacific region.

By the numbers: Coal's share of electric power was 36% last year, while its role in the wider global energy mix fell to 27% — the lowest in 16 years — as renewables and gas meet increasing demand, BP's report this week notes.

Data: U.S. Energy Information Administration; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: U.S. Energy Information Administration; Chart: Axios Visuals

Meanwhile, an Energy Information Administration primer this week takes stock of coal's steep and ongoing declines in the United States.

  • The drop-off since the 2007–2008 peak has been steep. Last year's production was the lowest since 1978, while consumption was the lowest since 1975.
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