This means 50 pounds of this key raw ingredient are needed to make every 100 pounds of steel. You can't build much without steel. The World Steel Association is forecasting 5% production growth in 2012, which would mean an extra 50 million tons of coal usage.

Add it all up, and you can see why the world is headed for a coal super-cycle over the next two decades.

Global consumption reached a record 7.5 billion tons last year. and this number is headed higher. In fact, the IEA says the increase in coal consumption in the next 25 years will be more than double that of crude oil.

Action to Take:This rise in demand will unlock numerous opportunities, from companies such as Fuel Tech ( FTEK) that help cut plant emissions, to South Africa's Sasol ( SSL), a pioneer in the coal-to-liquid fuel space.

So keep your eyes on what's going on in the coal sector. By the looks of it, the black rocks won't be going anywhere for some time to come.

Nathan Slaughter does not personally hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article. 

StreetAuthority LLC does not hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article. 

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage. This contributor reads:
Barry Ritholtz
Paul Kedrosky
Brad Delong
Joshua Brown
On Twitter, this contributor follows:

If you liked this article you might like

Fuel Tech Inc Stock Downgraded (FTEK)

Fuel Tech Inc Stock Downgraded (FTEK)

Fund purchases and winning streaks: are these stocks under 10 dollars on their way up?

Why Fuel Tech (FTEK) Is Tanking on Tuesday

Why Fuel Tech (FTEK) Is Plummeting After Hours