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Re: SC42

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May 12, 2007 11:38PM
http://globalpublicmedia.com/heinberg_coals_future_in_doubt

Coal’s Future in Doubt

MuseLetter #179 (March, 2007), “Burning the Furniture” http://globalpublicmedia.com/museletter179 consisted of a summary of the conclusions of a recent study by the Energy Watch Group (EWG) on future global coal supplies. That study, “Coal: Resources and Future Production ,” published on April 5, found that global coal production could peak in as few as 15 years. This astonishing conclusion was based on a careful analysis of recent reserves revisions for several nations.

The EWG report has enormous implications for climate change, global energy, and particularly for future electricity supply and steel production in the US and China. Previously, virtually everyone in the fields of energy policy and energy analysis—as well as nearly everyone involved in discussions about climate change—had assumed that the world’s coal endowment was so enormous that no limits would be encountered anytime this century. The EWG’s conclusions turn this assumption on its head...........

.................A Wake-up Call on Coal

Taken together, the EWG and IFE reports deliver a shocking message. For a world already concerned about future oil supplies, uncertainties about coal undercut one of the primary strategies—turning supposedly abundant coal into a liquid fuel—that is being touted for maintaining global transport networks. The sustainability of China’s economic growth, which has largely been based on a rapid upsurge in coal consumption, is thrown into question. And the ability of the US to maintain its coal-powered electricity grids in coming decades is also cast into doubt.

As noted in MuseLetter #179 , if future coal supplies are dramatically reduced this could be very good news for the global climate; however, that benefit would be tempered significantly if higher coal prices discourage the adoption of carbon sequestration technologies.

In summary, we now have two authoritative studies reaching largely consistent conclusions with devastating implications for the global economy. Surely these studies deserve follow-up reviews of the data by the IEA and the DoE. If the EWG and IFE conclusions hold, the world will need to respond quickly and with an enormous shift of investment capital in the directions of energy conservation and of developing renewable sources of electricity. Climate concerns are already drawing some nations in these directions; however, even the nations leading such efforts may not be proceeding nearly fast enough. For China and the United States, the world’s two most coal-dependent countries, the message could not be clearer: whether or not global climate concerns are taken seriously, it is time to fundamentally revise the current energy paradigm............
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