by Jerome a Paris
Sat Oct 7th, 2006 at 12:53:44 PM EST
This is not about how horribly polluting coal is. It's not about how dangeorus coal mining is. It's not about how much it contributes to carbon emissions and thus to global warming.
No, this is to fight the meme that coal is plentiful.
Le Monde had a special supplement about energy yesterday, whose title ("Past as future"), as well as the title as the main article ("The return of King Coal") are quite depressingly explicit.
These articles make two points:
- demand for energy is set to double by 2050, and demand for coal will increase by 300% over the period (i.e. it will quadruple);
- coal is plentiful, with 155 years of reserves at current production rates
Without noting how contradictory these two points are.
If you consider a linear growth in demand for coal, the average demand over 2005-2050 will be 2.5 times current demand, which means that we'll have used 112 of these "reserve-years", and, at 4 times current production in 2050, we'll have about 10 years left of reserves at that rythm of production (not even considering if these reserves will actually be accessible and usable at such rates).
asdf suggested in another thread that the USA could become self-sufficient in energy by switching to coal. Even if we choose to ignore pollution and global warming (pretty damn big ifs), it's simply noy going to happen, even supposing that CTL (coal-to-liquids) somehow was developped on a large scale (knowing that 5% of current US oil demand might be satisfied by transforming 20% of today's coal production).
So, even in the rosy scenarios of the EIA and other "don't panic" agencies, we hit the wall in 50 years. Is that so far away that we should not start planning for such a life-altering event? If not us, our kids or grandkids will still be alive then. Is that where we want them: in the wall?