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Environmental

Economically recoverable coal reserves much less than previously believed

Prior posts have noted the various technologies that may be involved in weaning the U.S. from its reliance on hydrocarbons. One of the constant refrains of opponents of so-called alternative generating technology is that the "U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of coal" with possibly several hundred years worth of reserves; as such, argue opponents, coal must be a major component of any energy program. While that may be true in the relative near-term (next several decades), recent research suggests that the percentage of economically recoverable coal may be a fraction of previous estimates. 
 
It has now been disclosed that last year the USGS did a survey of Wyoming's Gillette coal field, and determined that less than 6% of the coal in its biggest beds could be mined profitably even at prices higher than today's. If this figure holds across most fields, then the implications are staggering. From a national security and energy perspective, the concern is that the over-estimation of years past may have created a false sense of energy security, and that coal-generated power is not the bedrock previously believed.
 
For an interesting discussion of the issue, see the article in today's Wall Street Journal at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124414770220386457.html.