According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), coal demand is growing everywhere but the United States. Coal demand in the United States grew 4.3% (304 million tons (mt)), compared to Chinese demand growth of 233 mt.
The amount is misleading though, because despite the demand growth, it is less than the growth in previous years.
Unfortunately, from an environmental advocacy perspective, the decrease in coal usage is a result of the increase of shale gas production and usage, specifically in the United States.
Additionally, a decrease in domestic usage of coal will have negative impacts on employment in the coal industry. Simply stated, the coal industry cannot sustain a cut in domestic production because exports are not high enough.
Declining demand will give rise to cuts and layoffs in mines, especially in the high-cost Appalachia area. This is an unfortunate result of scaling back an industry which has been destroying the environment for decades. From a policy perspective it would be ideal if there were a way in which those who are laid off from the coal industry, for example, would be able to be transferred into the renewable energy industry, if they so desire.
Despite the decline in overall demand, the coal industry is not going to disappear anytime soon. Projections are being made for the coal demand in 2017 which says globally, it will be higher than in 2011, with growth in Turkey offsetting the more general decline; again, the decline is only occurring in the United States.
American government policy will be the driving force for promoting renewable energy, since the fossil fuel industry will not willingly put itself in decline. Coupled with public opinion shifting toward strong support of renewable energy, the United States will be contributing less to the global fossil fuel emissions, which will help everyone.
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