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Coal could soon be the world's top energy source

Coal is the world’s most polluting fuel and it could become the world’s biggest source of energy.

Coal is the world’s most polluting fuel -- and it could become the world’s biggest source of energy.

The International Energy Agency says coal will overtake oil and become the number one fuel within  a decade unless government policies change.

The agency says that economic growth in China and India is driving demand for coal. By 2030 those two countries alone will account for two-thirds of global consumption. This explosive growth, claims the agency, could jeopardize the battle to cut carbon emissions and pose other problems.

Dieter Helm is a professor of energy at Oxford University and author of “The Carbon Crunch.” He says coal is the number one enemy of the environment.

“It’s not just that it produces a lot of carbon emissions," he says. "It produces a lot of other pollutants too. Methane leaks from the coal mines. It pollutes the water tables. It’s pretty hard to think of anything worse than coal."

The IEA says the only hope of stemming coal use is by following the U.S. example and turning to much cleaner natural gas. The agency claims that coal demand will rise in every region except the U.S., where the shale revolution is replacing coal and cutting emissions faster than almost anywhere else.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.
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