Changes and trends in global fossil fuel consumption

  • 13 Aug 2012, 15:38
  • Carbon Brief staff

What is global fossil fuel consumption doing? It's going up. But on Friday, in an opinion piece for The Telegraph, Fraser Nelson said that it's falling.

We wrote this up. Nelson then tweeted at us:

"as far as I can see, you have no data contradicting my claim that fossil fuel consumption is falling!"

We replied, repeating the BP and IEA figures we'd covered in the blog, but got no response. Anyway, just to be totally clear, here's a brief run through of some of the latest statistics.

Global consumption of fossil-fuels

Oil giant BP produces one of the most authoritative reference points on the subject, the annual BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Published in June this year, the most recent edition shows that global fossil fuel use is indeed rising - consumption of coal, oil and natural gas all grew in 2011.

Screen Shot 2012-08-13 At 15.10.50

Longer term trends

Of course, major events can skew the picture when only looking at things from one year to the next. So what's the longer term trend in fossil fuel use?

Screen Shot 2012-08-13 At 10.34.23
This graph - also from the BP statistics - shows world energy consumption, in million tonnes of oil equivalent, from 1986 to 2011.

Consumption of oil (green), natural gas (red) and coal (grey) has grown steadily over the last 25 years. In 2009, global energy consumption dipped in response to the economic downturn, but it more than recovered in 2010, according to BP.

What about the broader picture?

The figures show that overall energy consumption is growing - rising by 2.5 per cent in 2011. This is less than in 2010, when consumption rose by 5.1 per cent, probably because 2010 was a bounce back from the economic crisis of 2009.

The rate at which energy consumption grew overall in 2011 "is in line with the 10-year average", according to BP.

The contribution from renewables is growing, but still makes up a small proportion of world energy consumption, accounting for 2.1 per cent in 2011 compared with 0.7 per cent ten years earlier.

In 2011, wind energy accounted for more than half of renewable power generation for the first time, and solar grew rapidly, compared to 2010, but from a very small base. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, nuclear energy output fell, and the contribution from biofuels levelled off.

Such detail aside, the figures demonstrate clearly that global fossil fuel consumption is rising, not falling.


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