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Science Panel Finds Fault With Estimates of Coal Supply

Matthew L. Wald, NY Times
The United States may not have nearly as much coal as is popularly believed, and mining the remaining resources may be more dangerous for workers and the environment than current operations, the National Academy of Sciences said in a report Wednesday.

With domestic production of oil, gas and uranium far below peaks, coal has been promoted by elected officials and energy experts as the only bright spot in the national fuel supply picture. But as Congress considers billions of dollars in aid for projects to make gasoline and diesel substitutes from coal, and to build coal-fired plants that would capture their own carbon emissions, the study said that estimates of coal reserves were unreliable.

“There is probably sufficient coal to meet the nation’s needs for more than 100 years at current rates of consumption,” the study said. “However, it is not possible to confirm the often-quoted assertion that there is a sufficient supply of coal for the next 250 years.”

The 250-year estimate was made in the 1970s and was based on the assumption that 25 percent of the coal that had been located was recoverable with current technology and at current prices, said one member of the study group, Edward S. Rubin, a professor of environmental engineering and science at Carnegie Mellon University.

But he said that more recent studies by the United States Geological Survey showed that at least in some areas, only 5 percent of the coal was recoverable with today’s technology and at current prices. The 100-year forecast was based on current consumption rates, about 1.1 billion tons a year. By 2030, the rate of coal consumption could be 70 percent higher or 50 percent lower than it is now, the study found.

The impact of carbon constraints, if the government imposes them, are not clear, members of the study program said. The new report, which was requested by Congress at the urging of senators from two coal-producing states, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, raises the possibility that taxes on carbon dioxide emissions will sharply lower the demand for coal.

It also points out that mining will increasingly occur above or below seams that have already been excavated, raising questions about safety and the disruption of underground water flows.

The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to research ways to use coal cleanly and tens of millions on miner safety. But the committee said more research was needed to find better ways to mine coal, to estimate reserves and to store carbon dioxide captured from plants. Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is a major factor contributing to climate change, scientists say.
(20 June 2007)

Richard Heinberg: Peak Oil, Peak Coal and Beyond
(Audio and Video)
Peak Moment, Global Public Media
Hot topics from Richard Heinberg: record-high U.S. fuel prices; the ethanol big-business boondoggle; coal projected to peak about a hundred years early (around 2020); what the climate change discussion is missing; and enjoying ourselves as we “go local.” Episode 63.

Janaia Donaldson hosts Peak Moment, a television series emphasizing positive responses to energy decline and climate change through local community action. How can we thrive, build stronger communities, and help one another in the transition from a fossil fuel-based lifestyle?
(9 June 2007)

Will OPEC increase supply in the 2nd half of 2007? Or has Ghawar peaked?

Rembrandt, The Oil Drum: Europe
Concerns about a gap in crude oil demand/supply in the 2nd half of 2007 increased in the past months. The International Energy Agency (IEA) and it’s sister organisation, the Energy Information Administration (EIA), have both told the OPEC cartel that OPEC must increase supply to avert rising oil prices. Presently the agencies expect a crude oil demand/supply shortfall of 1 million barrels per day towards the end of the year. However the OPEC cartel is of the opinion that oil markets are well supplied and therefore there is no need to increase supply at the moment.

This discussion, as shown below, boils down to the expectation for non-OPEC supply and world demand in the 2nd half. If the IEA and EIA projections are correct, we will soon find out what is going on in Saudi Arabia with the production of the supergiant oilfield Ghawar.
(21 June 2007)

This Week In Petroleum (TWIP)

Nate Hagens, The Oil Drum
This morning at 10:30 am EST, the Department of Energy released their weekly supply reports for crude oil and refined products. Gasoline stocks increased for the 7th consecutive week, and the build of 1.79 million barrels to 203.3 million barrels was higher than the market expectation of a 1.19 mb rise. Gasoline prices initially sold off 2 cents, paused for a while, then dropped sharply and spent most of the day down 5-6 cents. In the last 30 minutes of trading however, the prices rallied back to finish only down 1.5 cents on the day. Crude, after being down $2 at one point, closed down 75 cents.

Robert is on vacation so I’m posting the text of the report for those interested, along with some comments from a prominent Wall Street analyst, Paul Cheng, of Lehman Brothers. The TWIP (the text that accompanies the data released at 1pm), and some thoughts below the fold.
(20 June 2007)

ODAC News – June 20

Douglas Low, The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre

1a/ No bears at the IEA (Platts [Platts oil blog: The Barrel], Fri 15 Jun)
1b/ US requires gasoline imports to avoid pressure on prices (Platts podcast, Fri 15 Jun)
2a/ Natural gas – Russia and the EU. Russia & the EU: Gas unites, politics divide (Platts, Mon 11 Jun)
2b/ LNG imports likely to raise US natural gas prices: risk manager (Platts, Tue 12 Jun)
3/ UK’s Tullow uncovers oil in Ghana (BBC News, Mon 18 Jun)
4a/ Lies, damned lies and BP statistics (The Oil Drum: Europe, Mon 18 Jun)
4b/ Pay Attention To the Oil Price Naysayers (Yahoo Finance, Wed 20 Jun)
5/ Senate OKs plan to sue OPEC for price-fixing (Washington Post, Tue 19 Jun)

(20 June 2007)

Energy heads from Big Gav

Big Gav, Peak Energy
Despite being “short of time”, Big Gav managed to find about three dozen interesting energy stories today. As a bonus, there is a hilarious-tragic item from “Dear Miriam” at the end of Big Gav’s entry today.

Peak Energy home
(21 June 2007)