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Peak Coal – Coming Soon?

Shaun Chamberlin, The Oil Drum (Europe)
The general consensus view on coal supplies has long been that we have hundreds of years of the stuff left, and that oil and gas depletion are the pressing concerns. However, dissenting voices are emerging. Canadian geologist David Hughes recently claimed that “peak coal looks like it’s occurred in the Lower 48 (US states)”, and the consensus position on coal is also called into serious question by the Coal: Resources and Future Production report soon to be released by the Energy Watch Group in Germany. I present a summary of its findings here.

The report highlights that the “proved reserves at year end” published in the most recent BP Statistical Review of World Energy in June 2006 are stated as being for year end 2005, but are actually based on the latest World Energy Council (WEC) assessments, which contain data for the end of 2002.

So our best figures on this are actually over four years old. And our worst figures? Well, some haven’t been updated in 15 years (China) and some in up to 40 years (Vietnam, Afghanistan).

But really the key message in the global data lies in the rate at which reserves estimates have been revised downwards.

…I must stress that one of the key findings of this report is that data quality is very poor globally, and so all of the findings should be taken with that caveat, but the trends do seem clear. Indeed, we sent a copy of this report to Richard Heinberg and he has revealed that a Dutch study-in-progress using different criteria has reached preliminary results confirming this report’s findings. And the poor data quality is itself hardly reassuring for an energy source which is becoming increasingly central to our global future.

This report clearly carries many serious implications, but for now I’ll just share the information and leave these to be discussed on TOD. Further analysis of the report has also recently been released in Heinberg’s March MuseLetter.
This is a guest post by Shaun Chamberlin. Shaun (shaunus4) is TEQs Development Director of The Lean Economy Connection, the research centre founded by David Fleming to apply the principles of Lean Thinking to strategies for the future. Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) are an effective and fair response both to climate change and oil/gas depletion, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and providing the time to plan ahead. Further information available here:
(30 March 2007)
See original for complete article and links.

Sunrise In Coal Fields:
Coal’s Role In A Peak Oil World
Matt Simmons, Simmons & Company International via 321energy
Summary of energy possibilities, concluding that that coal is the leading contender to pick up the slack, despite its drawbacks.
(3 March 2007)

Burning the Furniture

Richard Heinberg, MuseLetter via Global Public Media
A soon-to-be-released study by the Energy Watch Group in Germany on the future of global coal supplies has implications so surprising and far-reaching that energy policymakers may take years to digest it. This essay is intended to help speed that process. The report’s central conclusion is that minable global coal reserves are much smaller than is commonly thought, and that a peak in world coal production is likely within only ten to fifteen years.

I will first offer some context for appreciating these conclusions, by way of some general information about global coal usage. Then I will describe the basis for the report’s conclusions, and finally will attempt to draw out some of the implications (not discussed by the report’s authors) for world energy supply and climate policy
(21 March 2007)