Coal of duty ?

We all know the energetic production has to be included in an environmental logic. Increase the CO2 emissions is one of the targets of the European Union and the other political summits in a worldwide vision. To illustrate it, Germany is developing sustainable energy. Many reports suggest that it is on the right track ! So why are so many countries, in development or members of the OECD, betting on the coal market ? As a French citizen, this should be the past. There are some museum for that. But in reality, coal is an interesting energy source. The goal of this article is to understand why it is a duty for politicians to continue to develop it.


An old story

We find the first exploration and exploitation of coal during the Dark Age. In the eleventh century, the coal is used as a combustible. Thanks to Marco Polo, his testimony attests that China controlled it in the same period. But, in our subject, the first modern application of coal was in England during the Industrial Revolution. After that, the coal became the center of a lot of engineering inventions. Like the steam engine or production of electricity.

Another advantage is the distribution of this combustible. We know that European countries are not really rich in valuable minerals. Coal is the exception. We find deposits in France, Germany, Great Britain, Poland and in Czech Republic. Everywhere. In addition, the extraction is relatively easy. So, this suggest a cheap mineral for the industry of the XIXth century, but also for today.


The reborn

After the Second World War, the coal was less and less useful for the industry. In fact, in 1946, the coal was about 40% in the worldwide energy mix. At the end of the century, it was less than 25%. The oil, the nuclear or the natural gas were good substitutions. But after 2000, we note a reborn of the coal. Second source of energy after petrol, it is used for more than 30% of the energetic mix.

Currently, the main area where the coal is extracted is China. In 2017, more than 47% of the worldwide production was located here. But the most interesting thing is that China is also the biggest consumer. Around 50%. This means that the country has to import it ! But paradoxically, the coal market is not oriented to export. We could make a focus on the first exporting countries (Indonesia and Australia), but we should explain it in another article.


Those reasons explain that the market could be affected by environmental summits. Why ? Because the first mission of politicians is to provide energy to their citizens and industry. So use coal is particularly intuitive : a cheap combustible with a perfect knowledge of engineers since a long time.


Sources :

ARTE, Le dessous des cartes, Demain, la fin du charbon ?

Connaissance des énergies, 25.10.2017, Le charbon, toujours central dans le mix de l’Asie du Sud-Est

Paris Innovation Review, 29.06.2014, L’introuvable mix énergétique idéal

A propos de Nicolas KRUMACKER

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