Peak Coal Comes To Appalachia

We've posted on peak oil dozens of times, peak natural gas a few more, and even peak copper and peak platinum. There's lots more peaking of strategic resources to come, starting with coal, and a lengthy list metals. Recycling of whats in the landfills to get at the metals is bound to result eventually.

Doubt it? Have a look at this example of peak coal in action.

Back in 2000 the US Geological Survey (USGS) issued this assessment of whats left of Appalachian coal reserves.

"Sufficient high-quality, thick, bituminous resources remain in [Appalachian Basin] coal beds and coal zones to last for the next one to two decades at current production."

In the late 1990s the USGS also published a CD with graphic assessments of US coal reserves status, by region. At that time, USGS estimated that over 90% of the original Appalachian reserves had been fully exploited. Oddly enough, this CD seems to be unavailable or out of print. Yes, we know that there's supposedly centuries worth of coal reserves in the US Western States. What that assessment overlooks is that Appalachian coal is the good stuff with the highest heat values and characteristics needed for efficient production of activated carbon and for steel making, for example.

What does that mean in terms of mountain top removal and what drives it?

It means it's all about getting the increasingly high prices that a rapidly depleting resource can bring.

And, it means that American has almost no hope of ever resurrecting a cost competitive steel industry of the scope it once had. And, it means every last bit of Appalachian black gold will be rushed out of the ground until its gone. And it means that that idea of using activated carbon to scrub mercury from "clean coal" technology produced gases will become increasingly less cost effective as the Appalachian sources dry up.

Via::Daily Kos Diaries, "Appalachian Coal: the faucet is almost dry."

Tags: Pennsylvania