The world’s use of coal fell by the largest amount on record last year as the fossil fuel that powered the industrial revolution was struck by tumbling US gas prices and another year of dwindling consumption in China. BP’s latest world energy review showed 2015 had been “an annus horribilis for coal”, said the oil and gas group’s chief economist, Spencer Dale. Global consumption and production levels for coal plunged by the biggest amount since at least 1980, while prices fell about 20 per cent.
“I would be surprised if one can think of another period when coal has fallen by a similar amount,” said Mr Dale. China, the world’s largest coal consumer, was not the main reason for the declines, he said, though its industrial production braked sharply and it was clearly aiming to shift to cleaner sources of energy. The US was the larger culprit as falling natural gas prices, which plunged alongside oil, saw the country generate more electricity from gas than coal for the first time.