Re: [asa] Peak Coal?

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Tue Mar 24 2009 - 22:05:51 EDT

Rutledge was mentioned in the science article.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Preston Garrison" <>
To: "Glenn Morton" <>; "ASA list" <>
Sent: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 5:45 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Peak Coal?

> >It is now 10 years since I wrote the first draft of my short note to the
> >ASA on peak oil.
> ><>
> >Back then, even in the oil industry, such views were considered to be a
> >wee bit wacko and needlessly pessimistic. Today, the concept of peak oil
> >is mainstream even while the worldwide drop in demand drops the price
> >(which won't stay down long and is now slowly moving upward--$20 /bbl
> >above the lows right now)
>>Anyway, I have been invested in coal, which is a very very volatile
>>investment and not for the faint of heart, so I am interested in the coal
>>supplies. Urban legend has it that the US has 200 years of coal supply at
>>current rates of usage. This may not be true.
>>Over the past couple of years, as oil prices went up people started
>>seriously looking at how much coal we have. The answers have not been
>>comforting. First one must know how world coal reserves are determined.
>>One would think that a geologist out in the field would be involved. Not
>>"A look at how official global reserves are calculated does little to
>>bolster confidence. The figures, compiled by a husband-and-wife energy
>>consultancy called Energy Data Associates based in Dorset, UK, are
>>gathered principally by sending out a questionnaire to the governments of
>>100 coal-producing countries. Officials are asked to supply figures under
>>clearly defined guidelines, but many do not. About two-thirds of the
>>countries reply, says Alan Clarke of Energy Data Associates.And maybe 50
>>are usable." David Strahan, The Great Coal Hole
>>which was published in New Scientist Jan 19, 2008
>>So, a bureaucrat was filling in forms. But as I said, as the price of oil
>>rose, people started sending geologists out to find out how much coal they
>>really have. And that brings me to my latest Science magazine, which has
>>an article entitled, "How Much Coal Remans?"
>> "In the last couple of years, forecasting coal production by
>> Hubbert's approach has come into vogue, partly because geologists seemed
>> to be having trouble assessing how much minable coal was left. For
>> example, "40% of the world's coal disappeared in 3 years," recalls
>> retired U.S. Geological Survey coal expert Harold Gluskoter. For the
>> World Energy Council's triennial survey of coal resources in 1990, China
>> cut its recoverable coal reserves-the amount of remaining coal geologists
>> believe can be extracted with today's technology at today's prices-to
>> one-sixth of what it had reported in 1987. The coal was mostly still
>> there; the Chinese just decided they could extract only a smaller
>> proportion of it."
>> "Less dramatically, in 2007 a committee of the U.S. National
>> Research Council that Gluskoter served on could not support the
>> long-standing estimate of about 267 billion short tons of recoverable
>> reserves in the United States. Divided by current U.S. production, the
>> old estimate gave the oft-quoted figure of a 250-year supply for the
>> United States. "We probably have 100 years. We don't know how much after
>> that," says Gluskoter." Richard A. Kerr, How Much Coal Remains? Science,
>> March 13, 2009, p. 1420-1421
>>The good news is that there isn't enough coal to drive the atmospheric
>>temperature too high.
>>"Applied to 14 major coalproducing regions, Rutledge's method gives a
>>world ultimate production of 660 billion metric tons.
> It's been referred to on these pages before, but if anyone is interested
> in this issue, go and listen to David Rutledge's lecture on the caltech
> website.
> It's the Watson Lecture - Hubbert's Peak, the Coal Question, and Climate
> Change.
> I'll probably have lunch with him sometime this summer, and I'll let you
> all know if his analysis has changed. (I competed with him for grades in
> high school. He won.)
> Preston G.
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Received on Tue Mar 24 22:06:02 2009

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