Facts and Fallacies on World Fossil Fuel Use vs Renewables



Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2016

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is perhaps the premier international authority in terms of collecting data on world energy supply and demand and producing analysis for policy makers. It posts its data online, and each year publishes a report on “key energy statistics”. The following, from the 2016 IEA report, are some notable statistics that call into question the theses that the countries of the world are dedicated to reducing fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions and that wind and solar energy sources will soon replace coal, oil and natural gas.


  • The world total primary energy supply by fuel rose steadily from about 6,100 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 1971 to about 13,700 Mtoe by 2014.


  • In 2014, the shares of primary energy supply by energy source were: oil, 31.3%; coal, 28.8%; natural gas, 21.0 %; biofuels and waste, 10.3%; nuclear, 4.8%; hydro, 2.4%; and “other”, including all renewables energy sources, 1.4%. (Message: Fossil fuels now account for 81% of the world’s energy supply and renewables just over one per cent. That situation will not change soon, easily or cheaply.)


  • In the OECD countries, total primary energy supply rose from 3,740 Mtoe in 1971 to 5,269 Mtoe in 2014. It actually peaked in 2005 and has declined slightly since then. (Message: Even in the OECD where the most significant and expensive measures have been taken since 1990 to reduce emissions, and in the wake of the most serious recession since the Great Depression, OECD primary energy supply has changed only slightly.)


  • In 2015, the shares of OECD primary energy supply by energy source were: oil, 36.1%; natural gas, 26.0 %; coal, 18.0%; nuclear, 9.8%; biofuels and waste, 5.8%; hydro, 2.2%; and other, 2.1%. (Message: In spite of trillions of dollars spent subsidizing wind and solar generation around the world, it barely registers as a supply source.)


  • Apart from a short dip from 1978 to 1982, world crude oil production has risen steadily from 2,869 million tonnes (Mt) in1971 to 4,331 Mt in 2014. (Message: We are not even close to “peak oil”.)


  • The United States remained in 2014 the largest net oil importer in the world, importing 344 Mt a year. China was second, with 308 Mt, followed by India with 189 Mt, and Japan with 165 Mt. (Message: The U.S. still needs to develop its own oil supplies and rely on secure foreign sources like Canada.)


  • Natural gas production has risen steadily from 1,224 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 1973 to 3,590 bcm in 2015. (Message: Natural gas is plentiful, reasonably cheap, and clean. It will be used.)


  • World coal production grew significantly from 1971 until 2013, after which it began a slow decline. In 1973, the world produced 3,074 Mt and in 2015 it produced 7,709 Mt. (Message: Coal remains a tremendously important energy source despite the many efforts to vilify it.)


  • India is the largest coal importer in the world, with 221 Mt in imports in 2015, followed by China with 199 Mt and Japan with 192 Mt. (Message: Regardless of the complaints of European and North American environmentalists, the Asian countries continue massively to rely upon cheap coal supplies to feed their economies.)


  • The shares of world electricity generation by fuel in 2014 were: coal, 40.8%; natural gas, 21.8%; hydro, 16.4%; nuclear, 10.6%; other (geothermal, wind, solar, etc.) 6.3%; and oil, 4.3%. (Message: Coal is still king in world electricity production.)


  • The 2014 ranking of countries that produce the most electricity from coal combustion is: China (4115 TWh); United States, 1,713 TWh; India (967 TWh); Japan 349 TWh; and Germany (285 TWh). (Message: Asia is leading the way on electricity production based on coal combustion, but even Germany, which has invested over a trillion dollars on wind and solar, is still committed to coal.)


  • World total final consumption by fuel in 2014 was: oil, 39.9%; electricity 18.1%; natural gas, 15.1 %; biofuels and waste 12.2%; coal 11.4%; and other 3.3%.


  • World oil consumption by sector in 2014 was divided as follows: transport, 64.5%; non-energy use, 16.2%; other (agriculture, commercial, residential, services) 11.3%; and industry 8.0%. (Message: No oil, no transportation. Also, oil is important to far more than transportation.)


  • World carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion have risen steadily, aside from a very brief downturn after the 2007 financial crisis, from 15,458 Mt in 1973 to 32,381 Mt in 2014. (Message: Despite all the rhetoric, GHG emissions continue to rise steadily.)


  • In 1973, the OECD accounted for 66.6% of global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion; by 2014, the OECD share had declined to 36.6%. (Message: All, or almost all, of the emissions growth is occurring outside of the OECD.)


  • In 1973, Asia accounted for 8,7% of CO2 emissions from fuel combustion; by 2014, Asia’s share had increased to 40%.


The IEA report can be found here:


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