We’ve been hard on King Coal here on the Sungevity blog this week. So today I’m going to say something very positive about coal that most people don’t realize–it’s running out.

By now, most of us have heard of “peak oil” and are aware that fossil fuels like oil and natural gas are finite resources. But we tend to think of coal as infinitely abundant, as though it comprised Earth’s very mantle. In fact, as author Richard Heinberg makes abundantly clear in his scary new book Blackout, “peak coal” could be upon us as early as 2025.

Heinberg’s conclusions are based on reports by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Academy of Sciences.  With half of our electricity coming from coal, the prospect of a global coal shortage is pretty grim.  The geological reality of peak coal demands not only that we ramp up our transition to renewable sources of electricity, but that we ditch “clean coal” R&D–we’re many years away (at best) from figuring out how to safely and effectively sequester huge amounts of carbon from coal-fired power plants. By the time we figure it out (if ever), coal will have phased itself out, but not before it’s caused irreversible climate chaos.  “Clean coal” is a dangerous distraction.

You can watch a short trailer for Richard Heinberg’s book here.

–Erica Etelson

Posted by Danny Kennedy

Danny Kennedy co-founded Sungevity and now serves as strategic advisor. He is an internationally recognized opinion leader on climate and energy issues. He is the author of Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy - and Planet - from Dirty Energy (2012), a book that has been described as the clean energy manifesto for the next greatest generation.

One Comment

  1. Queensland Government has just announced that a study funded jointly by the Australian Federal Government, the coal industry and the Queensland Government ($102 million contribution) has determined that a CCS project in Queensland is not viable under current circumstances. They are going to reprioritise their work to focus on identifying places to act as sinks.
    A study by Patzek and Croft, “A global coal production forecast with multi-Hubbert cycle analysis”, published in “Energy” thinks that Peak Coal might occur in 2011 or shortly thereafter. Numerous other studies corroborate the Heinberg figure of mid-2020s.

    For a list of papers and articles on Peak Coal, see http://www.peakoil.org.au/peakcoal.htm

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