Coal use could drop in US!

The US National Academy of Sciences issued a report Federal Research Needed to Determine Size of U.S. Coal Reserves and Meet Increasing Challenges in Mining Safety, Environmental Protection. From the press release:

Over half the nation’s electricity is currently generated by burning coal, but future levels of coal use will be largely determined by the timing and stringency of regulations to control carbon emissions, the report says. Coal use over the next 10 to 15 years — until about 2020 — could climb as high as 25 percent above 2004 levels, or drop as much as 15 percent below them, depending on environmental policies and economic conditions. By 2030, the uncertainty increases even more, the report says; coal use could range from about 70 percent above current levels to 50 percent below them.

Why increase funding by $10 million/year if coal use in the US might drop?

Health dangers to coal miners increase as they begin mining deeper seams, and seams over or under previously mined areas. Environmental protection and CO2 management require better (and different) plant operation. It is important to mitigate disturbances to groundwater and surface water, and minimize the risk of ground collapse over abandoned mines.

Interestingly, NAS cannot confirm (or refute) that the US has 250 years of coal at current rates of use [or about a century’s worth if coal supplies our fuel as well as our power. One reason is that no one wants to invest money in finding more coal if there is more than enough for any plant built today.]

You can read the full report online.

Added note: If coal power is reduced 50% by 2030, that still means we are building new coal power plants. This kind of plant is built to last about 30-some years, and most US plants are over 30 years old.

One Response to “Coal use could drop in US!”

  1. Joffan says:

    This highlights the importance of prompt action to set future carbon emission taxation (by any name). We urgently need a 10- to 20-year plan for ramping up the cost of greenhouse gas emissions.