China’s coal use now rivals rest of the world’s

According to the Energy Information Administration, China is now burning almost as much coal as the rest of the world — combined.

Coal consumption in China grew more than 9 percent in 2011, continuing its upward trend for the 12th consecutive year, according to newly released international data. China’s coal use grew by 325 million tons in 2011, accounting for 87 percent of the 374 million ton global increase in coal use.

Of the 2.9 billion tons of global coal demand growth since 2000, China accounted for 2.3 billion tons (82 percent). China now accounts for 47 percent of global coal consumption — almost as much as the entire rest of the world combined.

Robust coal demand growth in China is the result of a more than 200 percent increase in Chinese electric generation since 2000, fueled primarily by coal. China’s coal demand growth averaged 9 percent per year from 2000 to 2010, more than double the global growth rate of 4 percent and significantly higher than global growth excluding China, which averaged only 1 percent.

China consumed 3.8 billion short tons, or 3.45 billion metric tons, of coal in 2011, nearly half the world’s total consumption, according to EIA data.

China was also the world’s largest coal producer in 2011, producing more than 3.5 billion metric tons, or nearly 46 percent of global coal production that year, according to data published by the International Energy Agency. The U.S., by contrast, produced 1 billion metric tons over the same period.

China uses coal to fire boilers in 80 percent of its power plants. The U.S. derives 40 percent of its electricity from burning coal.

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