Speaking at a recent U.S. Energy Association Industry Forum in Washington, Hal Quinn quoted the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying Asian and industrial economies alike will push coal demand to 1.2 billion tons annually by 2017—exceeding oil as the world’s top energy source by 2015.

Coal has met half the rise in global energy demand over since 2002, according to Quinn, while the global south is poised to increase coal use by 80% through 2020. America’s premiere industry, he added, will strongly benefit.

Coal will remain the key for global electricity and infrastructure needs and pivotal for quality of life around the world—particularly in its largest, fastest-growing economies. “For developing countries, coal is the driving force lifting humanity out of poverty,” said Quinn.

Indeed, China’s voracious appetite alone is obscuring coal’s categorical growth elsewhere. Coal generates 65% of India’s electricity, Quinn noted, but it’s approaching an 80% share as the world’s second-largest nation—one struggling to double power supplies for the 40% of its people who have none.

America’s resilience in the sector, Quinn added, is buttressed by the construction of hi-tech plants with lower emissions, and a fleet with a recovery capacity of 100 million tons of consumption lost to older plant retirements.

Quinn condemned regulations halting advanced coal plants that can presage future clean coal technologies. One example, he noted, is the EPA’s new proposed greenhouse gas standards. “If we want to compete with the fastest-growing economies being powered by coal, we better keep all options on the playing field,” he said.

The NMA represents more than 325 corporations in all aspects of coal and mineral production including metal and industrial minerals, processors, equipment manufacturers, state mining associations, transporters, engineering firms, consultants, financial institutions and other companies supplying goods and services to the mining industry.