CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The International Energy Agency projected Monday that global demand for coal will continue to grow over the next five years, but warned that "coal in its current form is simply unsustainable."
IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said, "radical action is needed" to control greenhouse gas emissions, but lamented, "Radical action is disappointingly absent."
"As we look to the long term, we must ask what role coal has to play in the energy mix that we want to achieve -- because there will be a role," van der Hoeven said. "But without mitigating the polluting effects of coal, pursuing business as usual will have enormous and tragic consequences."
In its latest report on the medium-term coal market, the IEA projected that demand will grow at an average yearly rate of 2.3 percent through 2018. That compares to last year's forecast of 2.6 percent annual growth for the five years through 2017.
The report says that tougher Chinese policies aimed at reducing dependency on coal will help restrain global demand over the next five years. While China will account for nearly 60 percent of new global demand through 2018, government efforts to encourage energy efficiency and diversify electricity generation will dent that growth, slowing the global increase in demand, the IEA said.
IEA researchers also noted two opposing trends in China -- "a rebalancing of the economy into a less energy intensive model" and "the establishment of an urban middle class with increasing power needs."
In the United States, the IEA says, coal demand "will remain sluggish."
"While higher gas prices will temporarily allow U.S. coal demand to recover over the next couple of years, coal demand in 2018 is projected to be as low as 2012 levels," the report said. "Increasing shale-gas production will create intense price competition for coal; environmental regulations on emissions will lead to the closure of significant coal-fired generation capacity.