CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Global demand for coal will continue to rise, but its share of the international energy mix will drop over the next two decades as natural gas and renewable sources surge, according to an International Energy Agency report issued Monday.
Total world energy demand will continue to rise through 2035, and policies to reduce energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are urgently needed to avoid locking in dangerous global warming, the IEA said in its latest "World Energy Outlook" report.
"Taking all new developments and policies into account, the world is still failing to put the global energy system onto a more sustainable path," the report said.
IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said that tougher measures to improve energy efficiency could alone save the equivalent of nearly one-fifth of global energy demand.
"Energy efficiency is just as important as unconstrained energy supply, and increased action on efficiency can serve as a unifying energy policy that brings multiple benefits," van der Hoeven said.
The IEA report said that energy efficiency "can improve energy security, spur economic growth, and mitigate pollution" but that "current and planned efforts fall well short of tapping into its full economic potential."
In the U.S., IEA cited efforts by the Obama administration to mandate tougher vehicle fuel economy standards as one positive trend in energy efficiency, but said more needs to be done, especially in the buildings and industry sectors of the economy.
The IEA said that fossil fuels are expected to remain dominant in the nation's energy mix. Demand for oil, gas and coal will grow in absolute terms through 2035, but their combined share of energy supply will fall from 81 percent to 75 percent during that period.
IEA said that "an energy renaissance in the United States is redrawing the global energy map," fueled by rising production of oil, shale gas and bio-energy, along with improved efficiency in the transportation sector.
"The United States, which currently imports around 20 percent of its total energy needs, becomes all but self-sufficient in net terms by 2035," the IEA report said.
IEA said that subsidies to fossil fuels "continue to distort energy markets." Fossil fuel subsidiaries grew globally to $523 billion in 2011, nearly 30 percent more than in 2010, the report said. By comparison, government financial support for renewable energy amounted to $88 billion in 2011, the report said.