Global consumption of coal fell by a record amount last year, driven by a rise in natural gas, increasing deployment of wind and solar power, and a shift in China away from heavy industry, according to BP’s global review of energy trends.
After increasing by an average of 1.9 percent yearly from 2005 to 2015, global coal consumption fell by 1.7 percent last year, according to the BP review. In the U.S., coal consumption dropped by nearly 10 percent, falling to levels not seen since the 1970s. In China, which accounted for about half of the coal burned worldwide, coal consumption fell by 1.6 percent in 2016, compared with an average 3.7 percent annual expansion in the preceding 11 years. In the U.K., coal demand fell by 52.5 percent as renewable energy generation increased significantly.
The global drop in coal consumption means that for the third consecutive year carbon emissions saw little or no growth.
“The fortunes of coal appear to have taken a decisive break from the past,” BP’s chief economist, Spencer Dale, said. “At the heart of this shift are long-term structural factors.”
In the U.S., President Donald Trump is attempting to revive coal’s flagging fortunes. He touted the opening this month of the first new U.S. coal mine in years, but that Pennsylvania mine will employ only 70 people — fewer than the average 92 jobs created by opening a new supermarket, according to Quartz.