India to be world's largest coal importer by 2017

Coal is set to surpass oil as as the world’s top fuel source by around 2017, as China and India surpass the US as the largest consumers, the International Energy Agency forecast on Tuesday.

Coal is slated to surpass oil as the world's top fuel source by 2017, as consumption in China and India outstrips the US.

China and India lead the growth in coal consumption over the next five years, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. The report said China's demand for coal will become the world's top consumer during that period, while India will become the largest seaborne coal importer and second-largest consumer, surpassing the US.

"The world will burn around 1.2 billion more tonnes of coal per year by 2017 compared to today, equivalent to the current coal consumption of Russia and the US combined," India's Hindu newspaper quoted IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as saying. "Coal’s share of the global energy mix continues to grow each year, and if no changes are made to current policies, coal will catch oil within a decade.”

The news comes amid concerns among coal producers in the US due to the recent shift to natural gas -- as the result of cost-savings from fracking. But it also highlights the urgent need for cleaner coal technologies in the developing world.