Greg Boyce, CEO of US major Peabody Energy, and Ernie Thrasher, CEO of Xcoal & XLNG Energy, defended the coal business at CERAWeek after the commodity was repeatedly dismissed as an option for the future by leaders of the oil and gas sectors.
“A lot of people are writing the eulogy of the US coal industry,” Thrasher observed, explaining that the business was “taking strong steps to solidify its position”.
Coal currently covers about 40% of the US energy requirement, and a similar share globally. On the world market, growing demand in Asia will see coal surpass oil to become the largest energy source before 2020, Boyce claimed.
He described affordable energy is a moral right. “The greatest problem is not environment, but a human crisis: many millions of people do not have access to electricity, and for many who do it’s a question of whether they pay the energy bill, buy food, or medicine.”
Boyce said a development bank in Africa had warned western leaders not to tell Africans to use clean energy when their own industrial growth had been driven by fossil fuels.
About 75% of China’s energy currently comes from coal, although there are plans to trim that proportion to 70%. However in terms of volume, 70% of a higher tonnage will be more than 75% of today’s tonnage, Boyce said.
Both Boyce and Thrasher compared China’s current power demand with that of the United States a generation ago. “The US has made massive changes to coal technology. I believe technology will solve our [environmental] problems if we give it a chance,” said Boyce.