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Yikes.

Okay. So the World Coal Association website freaks me out a bit.

It has been estimated that there are over 847 billion tonnes of proven coal reserves worldwide. This means that there is enough coal to last us around 118 years at current rates of production. In contrast, proven oil and gas reserves are equivalent to around 46 and 59 years at current production levels.

According to the World Coal Association we have 118 years of coal.................................at current production. This is the World Coal Association. If we don't increase production AT ALL we have 118 years left.

But there are these countries called India and China, right? And they have 8 times the population of the United States. And their economies are growing like crazy. And the folks living in grass huts want electricity and the same standard of living as we have here in the US.

We'd need to increase coal supply by at least 400% just to meet that demand.

118 years cut into quarters is 30 years.

Plus the global population is going to rise to 9 billion by 2050....just 38 years from now. That's another growth rate of 28%.

SO rather than just a 400% increase in power demand we'll be seeing a 512% increase in coal demand.....

.....................blarg. That 118 years gets chopped down right quick to 23 years IF we increase production to meet demand.

The other option is to maintain production in the face of growing demand and watch the price skyrocket.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I Can't Play Because Our Lake Erie Wind Farm (13+ / 0-)

    wont' be built till AD Infinity.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 09:18:22 PM PDT

  •  old school ... (5+ / 0-)

    "Four more years!" (Obama Unencombered - The Sequel)

    by jwinIL14 on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 09:23:04 PM PDT

  •  You need to do a little more reading on the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic, Ellid, Larsstephens

    subject.  You have no idea what you're talking about. Coal use is going to go up but not even close the percentages you talk about.  Link to a study backing your numbers.  Would love to see it.  

    Rick Perry is George Bush without brains.

    by thestructureguy on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 09:30:27 PM PDT

  •  at current coal production (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic, Larsstephens

    is how I understood that.  Not at current industrial production.  Meaning, unless they start pulling coal faster, what we know about will last 118 years.

    You're not stuck in traffic, you are traffic

    by nominalize on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 09:55:50 PM PDT

    •  that is my understanding as well...the amount (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, Larsstephens

      we're pulling from the ground annually.

    •  But quite a bit of what we know about isn't ... (4+ / 0-)

      economically recoverable.  As can be seen at this link, coal deposits underly most of Illinois (65% of the state, in fact), and much of Iowa and Missouri.  Illinois alone accounts for 1/8 of the nation's coal reserves.  It's one thing to do strip mining in Kentucky, West Virginia, or southern Illinois, where the value of the land for agriculture is marginal.  It's another thing entirely to do it in areas with some of the most valuable agricultural land in the country.

      If these estimates don't take into account what is economically recoverable, rather than simply what is there, they really aren't worth much.

      Bin Laden is dead. GM and Chrysler are alive.

      by leevank on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 11:31:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Please remember that people (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW, Larsstephens

        live in Ky, W.Va and So. Il. You seem to toss them off because their land isn't fit for Agri-business. Shame on you. You should visit the region some time, meet some of the people whose families have farmed these hills for centuries. Never asked anybody outside for nuttin. Have seen their farms leveled and their water made toxic. Live with sludge ponds next to their elementary schools, and have cluster cancers and asthma. Shame on you.

        "Authoritarians are attracted to equality because it justifies treating everyone equally shabbily." ~hannah~

        by emmasnacker on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 06:36:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You don't know me! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          emmasnacker, Larsstephens

          I've been in Appalachia, and I have all kinds of sympathy for the people there, including on the issue of mountain top removal.  But the FACT is that farmland in the Midwest is a lot more valuable than in much of Kentucky and West Virginia, and that makes it more expensive to buy the mineral rights -- at least if it includes the right to strip mine.  And that makes the coal a lot less economically recoverable.  I have no reason to be ashamed of myself.

          Bin Laden is dead. GM and Chrysler are alive.

          by leevank on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 11:40:15 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You are right, speaking from (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Larsstephens

            a purely economic standpoint. I apologize. I don't know you, and was out of line. It's a sore point with me, having friends who have fought, been arrested, and still been stripped. It's heartbreaking.

            "Authoritarians are attracted to equality because it justifies treating everyone equally shabbily." ~hannah~

            by emmasnacker on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 04:52:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I believe you misread that comment (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          emmasnacker, Larsstephens

          leevank described the profitability of strip-mining from the perspective of the coal mining companies, the ones who would conduct the mining.  These companies are the ones who wrote off the people of Appalachia, a long long time ago.  

          You're not stuck in traffic, you are traffic

          by nominalize on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 12:27:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Burn it all! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy, JanL, dirkster42

    Burn the planet too
    "Burn, motherfucker, burn"
    Oof, we are screwed.

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 10:20:09 PM PDT

  •  Well, now, isn't that just lovely? (4+ / 0-)

    Forget about renewable energy sources, let's party for the next 23 years while we burn all our remaining fossil fuels!

    27, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-09 (born), TN-08 (where parents live now)

    by TDDVandy on Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 10:29:20 PM PDT

  •  Your logic is faulty here, as you're assuming (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic, campionrules

    a scenario where coal production will grow parallel to economic output and population growth.

    That scenario is highly unlikely, though, as renewables are coming on strong, natural gas is now often replacing coal, coal plants are getting more efficient, and industrialized nations are seeing significant gains in general energy efficiency.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 12:55:58 AM PDT

    •  Oh? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, chipmo, Roadbed Guy, JeffW
      as renewables are coming on strong
      ...but they can't come close to replacing what we're doing with coal, and don't forget that most of these "renewables" are intermittent-generation only; you need many more wind turbines or solar panels to make up for the occasional lack of wind or sunlight and we don't have the storage we'd need to even their contribution out to anything like a baseline capacity on a par with what fossil fuels give us.
      natural gas is now often replacing coal
      ...Fine - pick your ground-carbon and burn it.  Which one would you like to run out of first?
      coal plants are getting more efficient,
      Great!  Now if only China weren't building plants hand over fist.  It's not as though these plants are miraculously two or three times more efficient; the gains are incremental and have limits.
      industrialized nations are seeing significant gains in general energy efficiency
      ...but not per capita energy use reduction.  The only scenario that's unlikely is BAU (Business As Usual) without end, as EROEIs (Energy Return On Energy Invested) decline.  Now, if there are large and rapid population crashes, BAU can be prolonged for perhaps a couple generations but you're not going to be able to count on moving those horizons so far out that some "new magic" will be able to take over.  
      •  Actually, there is a per capita energy use (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens

        reduction taking place in many industrialized nations.  Germany would be one example of this.

        Furthermore, renewables are the fastest-growing energy industry worldwide.  Intermittency isn't really a problem in most countries yet, as a large, distributed grid can take up to about 30%(or, in some cases, more) in renewables due to much of the renewable energy being a virtual baseload in an integrated grid that is large enough.  By the time renewables grow to the point where it does become a serious issue, storage will be cheap and mass-produced.  Developments like the Vanadium-Redox flow battery are just around the corner from going large-scale.
        And there are other forms of inexpensive storage, such as pumped hydro or underground compressed air storage.  

        As for modern fossil plants replacing old ones... it's not ideal, but a modern ng power plant can be two to three times more efficient than an old coal plant.  It's not ideal, but it does buy us some time to get renewables into perfect shape.

        "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

        by Lawrence on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 10:31:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Germany ain't gonna cut it (0+ / 0-)

          Have a look at the second graph here.  World per capita energy consumption is on the up for now.  There are always going to be short-term trends in the other direction if you localize enough.  

          The first graph is important too, especially with respect to what the next 80-100 years looks like.  That entire first graph would occupy about 1/100th of a 20,000-year scale (roughly twice the length of human civilization).  If the future global consumption curve looks like a reversal of the past curve, at that scale the range from 1820 to 2200 will resemble nothing so much as a flashbulb going off.

          To take on one of your sacred cows, pumped storage, see an entry on that very subject on Tom Murphy's Do The Math blog.

          The upshot is that pumped storage is weak, weak, weak.  Even if you were to use the Great Lakes for that purpose, you'd still come up short for what the US would need to support a solar/wind-enabled turndown of fossil fuels.

          Quoting Murphy:

          Yes, a diverse portfolio of a half-dozen inadequate solutions may be able to add to an adequate solution. But a half-dozen woefully inadequate solutions cannot pull off the same stunt. So far, my quest keeps turning up the woefully inadequate type. The scale of fossil fuel replacement is so daunting that we very quickly get into trouble when putting numbers to proposed solutions.
          "Intermittency isn't really a problem in most countries yet" because intermittent renewables remain a very small portion of all electrical generation.  There is no "perfect shape" of renewables shy of macroengineering on science-fiction scales (e.g., PV fields with a combined area close to that of New Jersey) that will support BAU with fossil-fuel drawdown.

          I can't say that I know from the Vanadium-Redox battery but to achieve the storage called for under an BAU-with-FF-drawdown scenario (Murphy uses 7 days @ 2TW = 336 billion kWh), do you know if there's even within an order of magnitude enough vanadium on this planet to make those batteries?  How much energy would it take to obtain even 1000th of the Earth's vanadium (guess what - it doesn't even occur on Earth as a metal!)?

    •  It's certainly not faulty. I prefer "simplified" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      In my lifetime, no matter how one parses the numbers, we're running out of coal in any meaningful sense.

      What we do not have is 118 years worth of fossil fuels.

      If we do manage to maintain production at the 118 year pace, we'll still run out of coal in any meaningful sense as price increases.

      This is pretty much it. Time to be prepared.

    •  I believe our reps need a kick in the pants to (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lawrence, Larsstephens

      get renewables moving and get the grid updated to accommodate more renewables.

      We can have a system completely rid of coal and limited natural gas and nuke....but we really need to pound into people's awareness that all the talk of energy running out is coming in FAST. Because it is.

      •  I totally agree with you on this. (0+ / 0-)

        And I'm a big fan of your local efforts with wind.

        I just wanted to constructively critique the diary and point out that the math was off.

        "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

        by Lawrence on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 10:17:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Growing demand for limited resources (5+ / 0-)

    is a huge problem as global population grows, but if you want to look at something really scary, look at water supplies in a warming world.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 03:47:08 AM PDT

    •  That scale slides on both ends. (0+ / 0-)

      Global population won't necessarily grow.  The question is, will growth slow and reverse through voluntary de-fertility (i.e., "ahead of the curve" - women having fewer than two children surviving to adulthood on average) or through starvation and disease?

  •  I wish it would run out in 5 years. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic, Roadbed Guy

    We have alternatives; we're just choosing not to use them.

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 04:35:38 AM PDT

  •  And, of course, 'reserves' means destroying (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic

    pretty much the entire Appalachian mountain chain, not just the 500 or so mountains they've already leveled with mountaintop removal.

  •  Perfect time to cut SSI and Medicare. (snark) (0+ / 0-)

    “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

    by the fan man on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 06:06:18 AM PDT

  •  There are huge amounts of coal out (0+ / 0-)

    there if people get desparate enough.

    Basically the question of how many years worth of coal are left is more of a political than technological question.

  •  Maybe I should go into shock over such (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kickemout

    predictions.  Maybe I don't because I recall being shown a film in 7th grade science class which declared that there would be no more oil in the world by 1990.

    •  And they may have been right (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      I don't know when you were in 7th grade...but if the movie was prior to the 1980s our ability to drill miles under the ocean was severely limited.

      It wasn't until the early 1980s when we were really able to adequately map and drill for oil in many thousands of feet of water.

      It should be sobering to us that we need to drill deeper and deeper and deeper to meet a global production that hasn't really increased for the past decade.

      And here's an easy question: is oil pulled up under 3000 feet of water and thousands more feet of rock MORE expensive or LESS expensive than the oil from back in the days when Jed Clampett went shooting for some food and up from the ground came a bubblin' crude? You can't miss a rabbit and hit oil so much anymore these days.

  •  One other thing... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jes2, Larsstephens

    ...no coal, no steel.

    No steel, no wind turbines. No solar panel supports.

    Oops...

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 08:09:57 AM PDT

  •  Proven Reserves not same as existing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Claudius Bombarnac

    The diary makes the common error of equating proven reserves with what exists.

    It cost significant money to explore and due the studies to establish proven reserves of coal, oil, etc..  So mining, oil and gas, etc., companies generally operate to ramp up their exploration efforts as their years of reserves fall to 20 years and cut back on exploration as reserves rise to 30 years.  

    It does not make economic sense to spend billions today to find reserves that will not be extracted until 50 years from now.

    Since the 1920s the world proven reserves of oil have been between 20 and 35 years for this reason.

    In addition, technology can completely change what geological formations are economic to extract.   Over the pass 12 years, we have gone from a natural gas shortage and high prices to a glut and low prices due to technology change.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 09:32:34 AM PDT

    •  The world will be destroyed long before it runs (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nextstep

      out of carbon based energy. There are trillions of bbls/tons/cubic meters of known carbon deposits. Technology will find a way to get at them. Cars are now twice as fuel efficient as they were 20 years ago so people will have no trouble paying twice as much.

      There will not be "peak oil" - it will be "plateau oil" based on price until the crap destroys the earth.

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