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Yes, America is the Saudi Arabia of Coal
In a recent Wall Street Journal article on U.S. coal reserves, a spokesperson for the U.S. Geological Survey is quoted as saying, “We really can’t say we’re the Saudi Arabia of coal anymore."
Oh really…Since when? Of course we can – and we are. America has enough coal to power our economy for the next century and beyond.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says we have 267 billion tons of economically recoverable coal for 240 years at current use. Cal Tech researchers say about 130 billion tons for 120 years. Even taking the Cal Tech number, we have far more btu in recoverable coal than the Saudis have oil. U.S. coal has the equivalent of 550 billion barrels of oil. Saudi oil reserves are only 260 million barrels. In short, even using the conservative (and unlikely) Cal Tech numbers, we have enough low-cost coal to last until Halley’s Comet comes around again – for the second time.
And there will certainly be far more coal available than Cal Tech researchers indicate. It all depends on technology and price. Even George Warholic at EIA said recently, “It’s kind of crazy to postulate how long U.S. reserves will last... 110 years or 225 years...it all depends on your assumptions.”
He’s right. Many of the coal seams producing today were viewed as uneconomic 30 years ago. Technology is constantly improving, and even modest price increases open up vast expanses of coal all over the nation – especially in the Powder River Basin. America has 28 percent of the world’s coal reserves, more coal than any other nation, and coal is in the ground in over half the states, our energy ace in the hole.
In short, we know where the coal is and how to get it. Our coal reserves are far more predictable than oil and natural gas supplies and offer Americans much needed energy security at just a fraction of the cost of the alternatives.
If we split the difference between Cal Tech and EIA forecasts, we get about 200 billion tons. That amount of coal could:
Coal has been and will continue to be the steady workhorse for our electricity supply. And, through the process of coal conversion it can also help relieve our oil and natural gas constraints. Unlike any other nation, America’s coal creates an energy advantage that is abundant, secure and uniquely ours.