Data from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy shows global energy consumption fell by 1.1% last year, with oil and and natural gas usage down across the board.
Global coal use, however, has remained steady. In fact, as a percentage of world primary energy usage, coal has risen to levels not seen since 1971.
On the other hand, oil’s percentage of global energy usage has fallen consistently over the past decade; from 39.00% in 1999 down to 34.77% in 2009.
As oil production becomes more difficult and expensive, coal is increasingly being employed as a source of transportation fuels. Nations like South Africa and China have been expanding their coal-to-liquid (CTL) programs, and China reportedly has six major CTL projects under development.
CTL processes may present an alternative way to generate liquid fuel, but it comes at a price. CTL produces nearly double the greenhouse gas emissions of conventional fuel production from oil, and many climate and environmental advocates worry that if CTL programs become more widespread the world would experience increased emissions levels.