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Impossible-to-Confirm Peak Coal Projections Published to Freak People Out Even More Than They Already Are

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KING COAL
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This morning, the sun rose. This evening, I expect it will set at approximately the same time as it did yesterday. Maybe it won't. Perhaps the sun will never go down again. Then what?

Who knows. But I'm not worrying about it yet because, quite simply, there isn't anything to worry about yet.

However, Tad Patzek and Gregory Croft have published a study called "A global coal production forecast with multi-Hubbert cycle analysis," in the latest issue of the scientific journal Energy.

Patzek and Croft present us with this chart:



And David Roberts over at Grist.com boils it down:

"The global peak of coal production from existing coalfields is predicted to occur close to the year 2011. After 2011, the production rates of coal and CO2 decline, reaching 1990 levels by the year 2037, and reaching 50% of the peak value in the year 2047. It is unlikely that future mines will reverse the trend predicted in this BAU scenario."

So, yeah, sure--it could happen. It also could not happen. Or some combination of other possibilities could occur. Take any set of data, and the same numbers can yield different outcomes, depending on the biases of the researcher. It's called Selective Outcome Reporting and it can transform truth into fiction and fiction into truth.

Roberts writes:

"The prevailing conventional wisdom is that the U.S. has a "200-year supply" of coal -- sometimes jacked up to "400-year" by industry enthusiasts. If that's true, there's obviously an enormous incentive to build the infrastructure to keep using it. Such is the essential argument for carbon capture and sequestration: coal will always be abundant and cheap, so we "have to" keep burning it, so we have to find some way of burying its carbon pollution."

Then the whole thing turns into one big "what if?"

"But what if we're overestimating the amount of coal left? What if it's actually going to get scarce and expensive in the near- to mid-term? If that's true, it has huge, huge implications."

What if we are? What if it is? If it's true, we're screwed.

There are countless numbers of things in the world that have a chance of happening that could wreak potential havoc on life as we know it. There is also no way of knowing what those things will be or when they will happen.

The chart above extends its forecast all the way out to the year 2200. With all the other innovations and discoveries that may, may not, or will or won't happen between now and then, might it take a load off everyone's minds to take a deep breath and think about what we should be doing between now and say, the year 2020, to achieve domestic energy security?

Probably. But what if it doesn't?

POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.
TAGS:  ENERGY, COAL, WHAT IF?    SOURCE:   Grist

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