It’s the end of an era for coal. Production of the fossil fuel dropped by a record amount in 2016, according to BP Plc’s annual review of global energy trends. China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, burned the least coal in six years and use dropped in the U.S to a level last seen in the 1970s, the company’s data show.
Coal, the most polluting fuel that was once the world’s fastest growing energy source, has been a target of countries and companies alike as the world begins to work toward the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
Consumption is falling as the world’s biggest energy companies promote cleaner-burning natural gas, China’s economy evolves to focus more on services than heavy manufacturing and renewable energy like wind and solar becomes cheaper.
“The fortunes of coal appear to have taken a decisive break from the past,” BP’s Chief Economist Spencer Dale said at a briefing in London on Tuesday. The most important outcome of this “is carbon emissions, which saw little or no growth for a third consecutive year.”
The shift away from coal in most of the world’s major economies comes as U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking to revive the fuel, having promised during his election campaign to restore lost jobs in mining areas such as West Virginia. Coal’s decline has been driven largely by competition from cheap shale gas, prompting skepticism that the country’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement will do much to halt the slide.
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