Fossil Fuel Production Up Despite Recession

James Russell | Oct 15, 2009

World production of fossil fuels—oil, coal, and natural gas—increased 2.9 percent in 2008 to reach 27.4 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) per day.1 (See Figure 1.) In the first half of the year, producers strained to meet global demand, but when the recession took hold later in the year the market was swamped by excess supply. Energy prices reflected this shift: oil peaked at $144 per barrel in July, then fell to $34 per barrel in December.2 Continuing a decade-long trend, most of the growth was in the Asia-Pacific region, where production grew 6.3 percent.3 (See Figure 2.)

Although the global economic crisis has caused a temporary slump in demand, the longterm trend is clear: fossil fuel consumption in developing countries has surpassed that in industrialized countries. With four times the population and a vast demand for economic development to raise standards of living, developing countries will see energy use rise further.4

For six years running, coal has led the growth in fossil fuel production. In 2000, it provided just 28 percent of the world’s fossil fuel energy production, compared with 45 percent for oil. But by 2008, coal production reached 9.1 Mtoe per day, representing a third of fossil energy production and a 0.7 percent increase over 2007.5 The growth in China’s coal consumption since 2000 dwarfs that of all other countries combined. India, second in growth, added less than an eighth as much coal consumption as China during that period.6 (See Figure 3.)

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