Natural Gas vs. Coal: Racing to be the New Energy

This entry was posted in Blog on by .


Last year’s energy breakdown reports that coal, natural gas, and oil collectively accounted for 87% of the global energy consumption. In 2012, the growth of worldwide energy use slowed down in response to the economic decline. Worldwatch Institute found these results in a study on 2012 energy use. The International Energy Agency predicts that coal will replace oil as the most-used primary energy source in the world by 2017.

The United States shale revolution is reshaping the oil and gas markets around the globe. The shale gas revolution is relatively new; the United States is exploring and producing shale gas as an increasingly prominent source of cheap natural gas. Shale gas production leads to a fall in domestic gas prices. With this revolution, the United States could achieve independence from importing oil and gas by 2035.

The United States is importing less fossil fuel due to the new energy source of shale gas. The rising levels of domestic natural gas lower prices for power generation, which is leading to price discrepancies between the U.S. and European natural gas markets. In an effort to decrease their energy source prices, Europeans are increasing their use of coal. Although European countries are relying more on coal, global coal consumption was dominated by China in 2012; China accounted for more than half of the world’s coal use last year.

Global natural gas production increased by a total of 1.9% last year, and was dominated by the United States. Natural gas accounted for 20.4% of the global total, with Russia in a close second with 17.6%. Although natural gas production is on the rise, so is coal production.

In 2012, coal production rose faster than any other fossil fuel production. Although coal production tops the fossil fuels, the 2.5% increase was not as high as the 4.4% average of the last decade. In the past year, China increased its coal use by 6.1%, topped by India at a 9.9% increase.

Due to the global demand for fuel, the fossil fuel consumption will likely grow in the coming years. With an increase in hydraulic fracturing of shale gas and many countries looking to boost coal generation, research shows that natural gas use will increase. Coal and oil have higher greenhouse emissions than natural gas, so the increased interest in natural gas will benefit the environment. Some countries are trying to shift towards natural gas as a main energy source, but coal production’s incredible growth in the past year will likely make coal the main global energy source in the next few years. This shift will be detrimental for the environment if natural gas does not continue to increase as a global energy source.