Edited by Joanne Evans and Lester C. Hunt
Chapter 19: The Prospects for Coal in the Twenty-first Century
During the twentieth century, coal moved from the principal general-use fuel to one whose use increasingly was concentrated in generation of electricity. In addition, many historically heavily coal-dependent countries reduced total coal consumption. This transition naturally appalled the industry and its supporters. Much expensive and futile effort was devoted to stemming these changes. A key theme is that the ample availability of coal should lead to far greater use. A final less impressive development is the rise of a new world seaborne coal trade dominated by a few relative newcomers to both coal production and export. This discussion begins with an explanation of the defects of assertions made about vast coal supplies, the misunderstanding of available resource-availability data, and the neglect of the underlying economics. In Section 3, attention turns to the problems of producing, transporting, transforming, and consuming coal. Formidable problems prevail even if environmental impacts were ignored. Then the history of coal production is reviewed, as is the substantial reorganization of the industry. Coal trade patterns are examined in Section 4. US policies on mine safety and coal leasing are then reviewed in Section 5. The discussion concludes with a view of the prospects in Section 6. 2 Coal, Investment Myopia, and the End of Oil: The Theory and Practice of Energy Transition It is often argued that a decline in oil production is impending and private investors are not correctly anticipating this development. These assertions inevitably link back to Hubbert’s much-cited...
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