World Energy Council

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The World Energy Council (WEC) is membership-based organisation which is registered in the United Kingdom as a charity. (The WEC does not disclose details of who members are beyond stating that they are "a range of local and national energy companies, Government departments and organisations").[1]

On its website, the WEC states that "the work of the organisation spans the entire energy spectrum -- coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydro and new renewables -- and focuses on such topical areas as market restructuring; energy efficiency; energy and the environment; financing energy systems; energy pricing and subsidies; energy poverty; ethics; benchmarking and standards; use of new technologies; and energy issues in developed, transitional, developing countries."[2]

Documents Contained at the Anti-Environmental Archives
Documents written by or referencing this person or organization are contained in the Anti-Environmental Archive, launched by Greenpeace on Earth Day, 2015. The archive contains 3,500 documents, some 27,000 pages, covering 350 organizations and individuals. The current archive includes mainly documents collected in the late 1980s through the early 2000s by The Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR), an organization that tracked the rise of the so called "Wise Use" movement in the 1990s during the Clinton presidency. Access the index to the Anti-Environmental Archives here.

WEC and Coal

As part of its work on global energy policy the WEC has championed the role of coal in future energy supply.[3] The synopsis of the report makes clear that the coal industry has a huge PR problem: "There is still a striking cleavage between coal’s perceived image and coal’s real performance. Regrettably, there has not been so far an industry effort to address this deficit at the global level. Coal clearly has key attributes, however. It is incumbent upon the global industry to take action now to market them to the public and policymakers alike so as to ensure that coal provides a sustainable bridge to the future.[3]

WEC and Worldwide Coal Reserves

Every three years, the WEC publishes its Survey of Energy Resources, of which the most recent edition was released in 2004.[4] The WEC's survey is widely used and is the basis for estimates by the International Energy Agency (World Energy Outlook[5]), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (International Energy Outlook[6]), and British Petroleum (Statistical Review of World Energy[7]). Table 2 shows the US government's figures for worldwide coal reserves. As these figures show, seven countries (United States, Russia, China, Australia, New Zealand, and India) control 76 percent of world coal reserves, and three countries (US, Russia, and China) control 60 percent.

Table 2: World Recoverable Coal Reserves as of January 1, 2006[8] (Billion Short Tons)

Country Bituminous and Anthracite Subbitumious Lignite Total Share of total
United States 121 110 33 264 28%
Russia 54 107 12 173 19%
China 69 37 20 126 14%
Other Non-OECD Europe and Urasia 49 19 27 95 10%
Australia and New Zealand 41 2 42 85 9%
India 58 0 5 62 7%
Africa 54 0 0 55 6%
OECD Europe 9 3 19 32 3%
Other Central and South America 8 2 0 10 <1%
Other Non-OECD Asia 2 3 4 10 <1%
Brazil 0 8 0 8 <1%
Canada 4 1 2 7 <1%
Other 3 0 0 3 <1%
World Total 472 294 165 930

Are the WEC's Coal Reserve Figures Overstated?

Two recent analyses of coal reserves have concluded that the WEC's coal reserve figures are too high.

Energy Watch Group: In 2007, Energy Watch Group, a private research group initiated by the German member of parliament Hans-Josef Fell, completed an analysis of worldwide reserve figures.[9] The study concluded that "data quality of coal reserves and resources is poor, both on global and national levels." Although published reserves were reduced by 50% between 1980 and 2005, the study predicted that reserves continued to be too high. For example, China's data were last updated in 1992, "in spite of the fact that about 20 percent of their then stated reserves have been produced since then." In 2004, without explanation, Germany downgraded its estimate of proven hard coal reserves from 23 billion tons to 0.183 billion tons, a 99 percent reduction. Only two countries have increased their reserve estimates: India, from from 12.6 million tons (Mt) of hard coal in 1987 to 90 Mt in 2005, and Australia, from 29 Mt of hard coal in 1987 to 38.6 Mt in 2005. The study predicted that This analysis reveals that "global coal production may still increase over the next 10 to 15 years by about 30 percent, mainly driven by Australia, China, the Former Soviet Union countries (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan) and South Africa. Production will then reach a plateau and will eventually decline thereafter." Peak production would occur around 2025 and would fall to roughly half the current level by the end of the century.

Dave Rutledge: In 2007, CalTech professor Dave Rutledge made an independent analysis of ultimate coal output based on a technique borrowed from "peak oil" analysis known as Hubbert Linearization.[10][11] Like Energy Watch Group, Rutledge concluded that published coal reserve figures are significantly overstated.

Contact details

World Energy Council
5th Floor - Regency House
1-4 Warwick Street
London W1B 5LT
United Kingdom
Tel: (+44 20) 7734 5996
Fax: (+44 20) 7734 5926
E-mail: info AT

WEC Publications:

Articles and Resources


  1. 'WEC Structure", accessed June 2008.
  2. "What WEC Does", World Energy Council website, accessd June 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 World Energy Council, "Sustainable Global Energy Development: The Case for Coal", World Energy Council website, July 2004.
  4. Survey of Energy Resources, World Energy Council 2004.
  5. World Energy Outlook, International Energy Agency
  6. International Energy Outlook 2008, Energy Information Administration
  7. Statistical Review of World Energy, British Petroleum
  8. International Energy Outlook 2008, Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency, June 2008
  9. "Coal: Resources and Future Production," Energy Watch Group 3/07
  10. "Hubbert's Peak, The Coal Question, and Climate Change," Dave Rutledge, videotaped lecture and accompanying PowerPoint slides, October 2007
  11. "The Coal Question and Climate Change,", Dave Rutledge (text version posted on Oil Drum blog), June 25, 2007.

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