We’ve all become pretty used to the notion of scarce oil, and many debate whether a period of ‘peak oil’ is ahead whereby oil prices surge to astronomical levels due to world production peaking out as demand continues to grow.
Yet now even coal, one of the cheapest and most abundant energy resources in the world, could even reach its peak moment — in just a few years.
“The inevitable result of soaring demand and dwindling supply will be rising coal prices globally, even in nations that are currently self-sufficient in the resources,” Richard Heinberg and David Findley, fellows at the Post-Carbon Institute in Santa Rosa, California wrote in an article in the magazine. “Energy policies relying on cheap coal have no future.”
Guess who could make one of the world’s most common energy resources suddenly scarce:
China, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of coal, has coal resources of 187 billion metric tons, second to the U.S., according to data collected in the 2000-10 national resource survey by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources, or about 62 years’ worth of coal, according to Heinberg and Findley.
China has just 62 years of coal for itself, yet A) it is one of the largest sources of coal reserves and B) this assumes no demand growth:
“But the overwhelming global trend, as revealed by national coal surveys over the past few decades, is for the size of countries’ estimated reserves to shrink as geologists uncover restrictions,” Heinberg and Findley said. “Coal consumption is accelerating fast. This renders meaningless reserves-lifetime figures calculated on the basis of flat demand.”
The peak of world coal supply “may be only years” away as the world’s highest quality and most accessible coal reserves are depleted in light of growing demand, Heinberg and Findley said, citing scientific studies.
This is obviously great news for current coal producers, plus anyone in the business of coal reserves exploration. We can expect companies to reach further and further in search of new, higher-cost coal, as has happened with oil.