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Coal - 250 Years Left. Maybe. Maybe Not.
Everybody knows that the US has 250 years left in its coal supply. Everybody, it seems, but the National Academy of Sciences.
 
A June 21, 2007 New York Times story reported that the Academy is not so sure that estimate is accurate.  New York Times
 
“There is probably sufficient coal to meet the nation’s energy needs for more than 100 years at current rates of consumption.” The study said. “However, it is not possible to confirm the often-quoted assertion that there is a sufficient supply of coal for the next 250 years.”
 
The 250 year estimate was made in the 1970s and was based on the assumption that 25% of the coal that had been located was recoverable with current technology and at current prices said Edward S. Rubin, a professor of environmental engineering and science at Carnegie Mellon University.
 
But, he said that more recent studies by the US Geological Survey showed that at least in some areas, only 5% of the coal was recoverable with today’s technology and at current prices. The 100 year forecast was based on current consumption of 1.1 billion tons a year. By 2030, the rate of coal consumption could be 70% higher or 50% lower than it is now, the study found.
 
With new interest in coal as an expanded energy source, consumption will increase in future years. That makes the National Academy of Sciences report even more ominous. The bottom line seems to be that the guesswork of the 70s and the guesswork of 07 may both be wrong. They can’t both be right.  
 

Coal producing areas of the US

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