World coal consumption has been increasing, and reached 3730 MTOE (Million Tons Oil Equivalent) in 2012. The largest national consumer is China. There was a slight decline in coal consumption within the United States and Europe from 1992 through 2012. Consumption within the Asia Pacific region, however, increased by 38 percent from 1992 through 2002, and 119 percent from 2002 through 2012. China now consumes more coal (50.6 percent of world consumption) than all other nations put together. That means, of course, China also pollutes the air with more combustion products from the consumption of coal than any other nation. (Note 1) Large coal fired plants are under construction or in proposal stages for many nations including China, India, Germany, Russia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and on and on. These nations will not stop burning coal because they cannot stop. The consumption of coal is embedded in their economic policies.
Thus far, world coal production has kept up with this dramatic increase in demand. Total world coal production increased by 10 percent in the period from 1992 through 2012, and by 60 percent from 2002 through 2012. World production now exceeds 3845 MTOE per year.
We should also be aware that long term coal prices tend to be influenced by the price of natural gas and oil. Oil prices are projected to increase substantially as we approach peak oil, and that will increase national interest in the conversion of coal into motor fuel. This will have an upward effect on both the demand for coal and the price of coal per ton.
In terms of Peak Coal, we actually will have two peaks: one measured by heat content, and one measured by maximum tons produced. Considering the decline of our anthracite resources, and the increasing production of sub-bituminous and lignite coals, there are those who believe we have already passed Peak Coal based on heat (energy) content.