BP Study Finds Sharp Decline in Global Demand for Coal

Even as US President Donald J. Trump touts the creation of coal jobs, 2016 energy trends indicate a sharp decline in the demand for coal worldwide, according to Spencer Dale, group chief economist at BP.

Overall, according to Dale, these energy trends also indicate a plateau in carbon emissions. In fact, he added, despite Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord—a pact aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions—carbon emissions will steadily decrease thanks to strides made in the developing world toward renewable energy technologies.

The United States’ role in Paris was primarily one of leadership, “galvanizing the international community and bringing them to the table,” said Dale. While Washington’s decision to back away from that role will not have a major impact on the fight against climate change in terms of percentages of global greenhouse gas emissions, it could hinder the momentum of other signatories to the agreement, he said. 

Therefore, “it’s less about the numbers and more if the US withdraws from that leadership role the implications that could have for future progress,” which as of yet remains undetermined, Dale said while noting that there is “growing societal pressure to move toward cleaner, lower-carbon fuels.”

Dale joined Gray Johnson, a project assistant with the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, for a Facebook Live interview on June 15 to discuss the findings of BP’s 2017 Statistical Energy Review. Later that day, the Global Energy Center hosted the US launch of the review.

Dale cited countries such as China and India, which are outpacing the United States and Europe in terms of clean energy technologies. “When you think about the future of energy markets, it’s the developing world,” he said.

The BP review indicates that the greatest developments in the energy sector can be traced to emerging economies. “What’s really affecting global energy markets at the moment is the pace of rapid change in China,” said Dale, describing the country’s moves toward clean energy technologies and market developments. However, China is not the only global player impacting energy markets. “Last year, all the growth in global energy demand came from… outside the developed world,” said Dale.

Dale described how the energy market growth in developing countries can be attributed to increased prosperity. As more people earn more wealth, they use more energy. As a result, he said, “the energy world has this dual challenge: we need more energy and less carbon.”

Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council. 

Image: (from left) Spencer Dale, group chief economist at BP, joined Gray Johnson, project assistant with the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center, to discuss the findings of BP's 2017 Statistical Energy Review. (Atlantic Council)