U.S. Coal Outlook Brightens on Global and Domestic Demand

Washington, D.C. – Coal will remain the backbone of global energy use and resume its growth in the U.S. power market as newer, more efficient plants dominate coal-based electricity generation here and abroad, said a coal industry leader today at the National Press Club.

National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn said coal is projected to overtake oil as the world’s top energy source by 2015, providing new opportunities for using America’s world-leading coal supply. Coal met almost half of the rise in global energy demand over the last decade and the developing world is poised to expand coal fired power by 80 percent through 2020, Quinn said.

Speaking at the U.S. Energy Association’s 9th Annual State of the Energy Industry Forum, Quinn cited forecasts by the International Energy Agency that global coal demand will rise around 1.2 billion tons annually by 2017, fueled by rapid economic growth in Asia and increasing demand from the developed world. Coal will remain the key fuel for satisfying enormous demands for electricity and infrastructure, especially in the largest, fastest growing economies where it is substantially raising living standards.

“For the developing countries, coal is the driving force behind the world’s most transformative action – lifting humanity out of poverty,” Quinn said.

Quinn observed that China’s voracious appetite for coal actually obscures coal’s growing use elsewhere. In India, coal now generates 65 percent of electricity but is headed for an 80 percent share as the country struggles to double its power generation to provide electricity for forty percent of the country’s population now without it. Even developed nations such as Germany and Japan today are using more coal.

Here in the U.S., said Quinn, coal’s resilience is supported by two factors. First, recent and planned construction of higher efficiency coal-based power plants with advanced technologies will feature higher output rates with lower emissions. Second, the remaining coal fleet will on average be larger and more efficient and running at higher capacity, with the capability of recovering at least 100 million tons of coal consumption lost to retirements of older plants.

Quinn said the nation is not well served by polices that deliberately halt the construction in the U.S. of new advanced coal plants today that can serve as the platforms for cleaner coal technologies around the world tomorrow. He cited EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas new source performance standards for coal power plants as a failure of ambition and policy. “If we want to compete with the fastest growing economies that are being powered by coal, we better keep all of our energy options on the playing field,” he said.