Crouching Oil, Hidden Coal

The bible for energy data, the BP Statistical Review, was released yesterday and I continue to make up charts using the fresh news. Today I update Global Energy Use by Source 2009, which shows the contribution to total world energy by source, and without question there are changes here worth a comment. But before getting to the relative mix, let’s briefly review the absolute changes from 2008.

First, total world energy use from all sources fell by 1.1% last year. Given the state of the world economy, that’s no surprise. Though, I should mention, 1.1% is much lower than many had anticipated. Digging back into my data archives, for example, to the time of the Great Depression–when coal was still the primary energy source for the world–I find that in 1931 coal use fell over 11% from 1930. Oil is of course now the world’s primary energy source (though not for much longer) and in 2009 total world oil use fell by 1.7%. Total world use of coal was flat in 2009, by contrast. And in natural gas, total global use fell by 2.1%. Given these absolute falls, let’s now look at the chart of relative use, by source:

Oil still makes the largest relative contribution to global consumption of energy. However, compared to 2008 (revised), coal increased its global contribution from 29.04% to 29.36%, while oil’s contribution fell from 35.00% to 34.77%. That may look like a small change, until you consider the scale of global energy use and the trend of the past 10 years. It’s also notable that both natural gas and nuclear power lost relative position as well, with nuclear’s contribution now falling even further below hydro power. Fun fact: hydro power has contributed a very steady 5.50-6.50% to global energy supply since 1965.

The most important story from yesterday’s data release, of course, is that global coal consumption was flat in 2009 as consumption of oil and natural gas fell. Coal remains the big story, and will become an even bigger story as we head to 2015.

-Gregor

10 Comments ↓

  1. Grant writes:

    Thanx for a terrific site Gregor, lots of sooooo useful info, and careful reasoning. Tops! One thing – your article “Crouching Oil, Hidden Coal” gives the ratios of global energy use 2009 for oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydro, but there's no mention of the ratios of combustible renewables (biomass), wind and solar. Why is that?

  2. EGB3 writes:

    Which sectors of use are most effecting these changes by energy type both in th US and global?

  3. Kinuachdrach writes:

    The BP Statistical Review tried to include the “Subsidy Sluts” (wind, solar) a number of years ago, when BP was going through its now-forgotten Green phase. They had to give it up, because the numbers were down in the rounding error range when set against global energy demand.

    Combustible biomass is mainly used in poor countries, where poor people pick up their own supply. It is not a commercial fuel, hence is excluded from the statistics — even though it is believed to be cumulatively quite significant.

  4. Grant writes:

    OK, if BP's Statistical Review no longer factors in solar and wind, where (in your opinion) are the most reputable sources for showing their (admittedly small) ratio of global energy use. Also, I'm interested in the ratios of solar and wind for the US, China and the UE: can you point me towards some reputable sources?

  5. Pmcandrew writes:

    Nice follow on to the coal story here:

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/18/th

  6. gregor.us writes:

    Yes thanks. Note, however, that at the NYTimes they may read all my work on Coal but they will never cite a blogger such as myself. They stay within academia for sources. Contrast this with the FT.

  7. Pmcandrew writes:

    well really, how can you trust some blogger to get the story right? That's a job for journalists.

  8. Pmcandrew writes:

    Nice follow on to the coal story here:

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/18/th

  9. gregor.us writes:

    Yes thanks. Note, however, that at the NYTimes they may read all my work on Coal but they will never cite a blogger such as myself. They stay within academia for sources. Contrast this with the FT.

  10. Pmcandrew writes:

    well really, how can you trust some blogger to get the story right? That's a job for journalists.

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