Energy Department confirms the U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of Coal

Energy Department confirms the U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of Coal

Even with the world’s growing effort to control coal use because of environmental concerns, China and India have little alternative options that will offer immediate relief, where will they turn and at what cost?

(IJR news 5/9/2011) According to the New York Times (Energy and Environment May 9, 2011) and, coal is the most important fuel producing electricity in the United States and around the world, but it is also the most controversial. As the greatest source of carbon dioxide of all fuels, environmentalists say it is critical to reduce the world’s dependence on it in order to stem global warming.  However great this sounds, it is anything but realistic.

Some experts believe that Coal’s preponderance is a reason why the U.S. Government invests and encourages private efforts in carbon capture and sequestration efforts to lesson coal’s impact on climate change.  However, these same experts think a breakthrough is several years away at best.

If this breakthrough is in the distant future, it would give the U.S. world control in a area many people never even thought of.  Coal has many of the characteristics that investors and speculators would deem as a “sleeping giant”.  In addition, its present and future uses make it a key ingredient for the foundation of any world power.

History has taught the world that, not having to rely on trade or to buy key natural resources from other Nations, has always been a sign of power and wealth. Wealth can sometimes substitute natural resources as we have seen with Saudi Arabia, Japan, and other nations with little to no natural resources.  However, the U.S. seems to be in a position to have both. Could this be the beginning of a blindsided energy power shift?

While coal is contentious, coal consumption is growing, and is seen as a longer term answer to basic human needs until a replacement can be found or alternative energy efforts produce results to generate mass energy.

According to a recent U.S. Energy Department study, world coal consumption could increase by 70 percent between 2010 and 2030. Its share of world energy consumption could increase over that period from 27 percent to 29 percent.

As the economies of Asia, particularly China, rebounded from the 2008 global slowdown, their imports of coal soared, pushing prices up. By 2010, China was using half of the six billion tons of coal burned each year, and the price had doubled over five years.  This is a statistic that can be a lifeline if one is involved in the coal industry in any capacity, even being a U.S. citizen alone, as this natural resource will trickle down in the big economic picture.

The Energy Department reports that substantial new coal-fired capacity will come on line after 2015 in the United States, even though natural gas is presently the preferred choice for new generating capacity. But China and India should account for nearly 80 percent of the predictable boost in world coal production over the next two decades. One reason for all the expected growth is the profusion of coal reserves around the world, including the United States, which is sometimes called the Saudi Arabia of coal.  This demand and basic human need might outweigh environmental concerns, especially if ways to curb the emissions are founded.

Coal is mined, often by stripping the trimmings off mountains that can cause water contagion. The coal industry says that it has improved its practices to defend the environment, and that restoring land troubled by strip mining in a vital part of the mining process. Environmentalist might want to embrace this industry as it could be the eventual source of addressing other environmental concerns as the U.S. Government has already showed signs that is fully aware of their hidden black diamond which other still call coal.

Brent Casey  / International Journalism Review Senior Editor

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