Monday, June 08, 2009

Our Illusionary Coal Reserves

Americans have grown up accustomed to the old bromide, "We have a 1,000 years of coal." Well recent studies have drawn a very different conclusion.


Coal provides nearly one-quarter of the total energy consumed in the U.S., and by Mr. Warholic's estimate, the country has enough in the ground to last about 240 years. A belief in this nearly boundless supply has led officials to dub the U.S. the "Saudi Arabia of Coal."

But the estimate, recent findings show, may be wildly overconfident.

New Outlook for Coal Production?


American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity

As coal extraction becomes more difficult and expensive, recent studies are questioning government estimates of the U.S. supply of coal.

While there is almost certainly as much coal in the ground as Mr. Warholic's Energy Information Administration believes, relatively little of it can be profitably extracted. Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey completed an extensive analysis of Wyoming's Gillette coal field, the nation's largest and most productive, and determined that less than 6% of the coal in its biggest beds could be mined profitably, even at prices higher than today's.

"We really can't say we're the Saudi Arabia of coal anymore," says Brenda Pierce, head of the USGS team that conducted the study.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Go to: US Foresees Thinner Cushion of Coal

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